We had an absolutely gorgeous weekend. The weather was beautiful, Adam felt good, and the soccer was awesome! My favorite part of parenting so far is watching my children grow up. I know. That thing that makes me a bit sad or brings that bittersweet lump to my throat is also the best part. Growing up means learning new things, mastering skills, having real conversations, coping with disappointments, earning accolades, and so many other things. I love that. My son got a “player of the game” patch for his work in goal during their first game – I wanted to cry and hug the opposing team’s coach for choosing him. But mostly I just want to be thankful – and yes, happy – for the great weekend. The kids (players and siblings alike) swam at the pool, played with friends, and generally acted like the crazy kids they are; and when it came time to play, they played hard and with heart. Not much sleep was had, bruises were incurred, and tears ensued at times. In fact, Ethan had to stay home from school today and has a doctor’s appointment (oh, I’m tired of those) this afternoon because he is feeling pretty bad from allergies, lack of sleep and general exhaustion. But he coped. The whole time. Even when the other team scored. Maybe that is why I can’t seem to stop being so happy about this weekend. The wins were great – really great. But Ethan held it together. Ethan. While he was sick, tired, hungry and imperfect. Held it together. Thank you God, for my maturing kid! And thank you to some wonderful coaches and teammates. Do you know what a really great coach does? He teaches, loves, encourages, chastises, cheers, rewards, denies, punishes, challenges, and pushes a kid to be better than the kid even knows he can be. He helps a group of competitive individual egos become a team that works together. He teaches that sportsmanship is about playing, winning, and losing with grace and dignity. He knows when to let someone else teach his team things he can’t. And he never quits being on their side. So congrats to the Rocket City United Development Academy U-10 Gurley team on your gold flight championship performance at the Hoover Havoc tournament and a special shout out to Coach Aaron – he’s one of the good guys! Thank you for a wonderful weekend…and for a happy post – one that isn’t about cancer at all!
I just saved a draft of a post that may or may not ever see the light of day. I entitled it “Doing what I’m told.” Stop laughing. Seriously. Guess why it’s still a draft? Suffice it to say, when my happy husband – who is happy even though he has cancer and didn’t sleep last night, for the love of all that is holy – tells me to write a “happy post”…well good things didn’t so much happen. I first asked him why he didn’t write said happy post, then sat down to do what I was told and ended up with…well, it wasn’t execrable. It certainly wasn’t sublime. It was just sort of…schla. I don’t know where my friend got that sound or how she spells it, but I’ve decided it’s a good onomatopoeia for my feelings on my mediocre post. So. No happy post from me. Unless it makes you happy to laugh uproariously at the idea of me doing why I’m told…I suppose that is possible.
I’m not unhappy. I’m just exhausted and feel like my bones are currently being held in position by stress alone. Which means I am really happy about the massage I’m having next week. I don’t promise I will still be able to stand when it is over, but I do hope to relax some. And I am really happy to have a dear friend who is treating me to the massage…and the dear friends who are coming to clean my house next Wednesday while we are at the first day of the second chemo cycle. I am also really happy to have Adam feel up to coming out of town with the rest of the family this weekend for Ethan’s soccer tournament. Mini vacation in beautiful Hoover, Alabama – check. I am thrilled that another dear friend is responding well to his new cancer treatment. I am relieved that some of the details I needed to arrange for the summer are coming together. I am thankful for the good visit we had with my mom, and the upcoming visits we’ll have with other family members. I remember that the visits are prompted, at least in part, by Adam’s treatments and I get considerably less relaxed…but I am still looking forward to spending time with everyone. I can still find it in me to be cheerful, excited, amused, and content. So happy is as good a word as any, I guess.
Making the most of the good days…and even the good micromoments. That is the new reality. Not a bad lesson, all things considered….
Yesterday was Adam’s first day of chemo and the side effects started while he was still at the cancer center. So far he has, ahem, digestive issues – mostly nausea – and extreme cold sensitivity. Like, cold drinks hurt and washing his hands with cold water feels like plunging them in ice. He also doesn’t want to eat or drink anything, which he really needs to do. On the other hand, I want to eat constantly, which I really need not to do. So here we are for the second day. He was given more nausea meds and a bag of fluids, so hopefully he’ll be more comfortable today and tonight. He is sleeping now, and that should also help a lot.
I was reflecting as I walked in to the building that though I know I am blessed to be able to say that my husband is not dying of cancer – many people here can’t say that – this still really sucks. Chemo is horrible. It is a blessing, it is a miracle – without modern medicine, Adam would be dying right now – but it exacts a high price. I don’t know what the coming days, weeks, and months will bring, but I do know they won’t be among our favorites. I am thankful for the wonderful staff here – it can’t be easy for them to now that to help their patients in the long run, they must hurt them first – and I am thankful for the treatments that will hopefully cure Adam’s cancer. But damn, I am already ready for it to be over. And my loathing of this is a poor second to Adam’s. Pray for him, for me, for our kids, and for peace – for all of us. Cancer sucks.
This time of April is always fairly momentous in the Tisdale house: Kara’s birthday is the 7th, mine is the 12th, and spring is springing…. Usually, I have been trumpeting my birthday present requests for weeks so that no one has any excuses if they are able to forget that my big day is upon us. In fact, my focus on my birthday rivals that of my children. And we like it that way around here. Of course, this year is Different. With the obligatory capital D. This year, Adam is celebrating my birthday with the beginning of chemotherapy, not with the previously planned weekend away while my mom came to stay with the kids. I haven’t bothered him with gift ideas, because what I want is for him to not have to deal with any of this cancer shit. I want that for all of us. But we do have to, and we will. So on Wednesday, the birthday of our dear friend Michelle, he will go for his very first treatment. Thursday and Friday (that would be my 37th birthday, for those who are keeping track of little things like that) are also treatment days, though shorter ones. Part of me is glad it’s here, because that means the end is a little bit closer. Part of me is terrified because it’s chemo. Adam is trying to maintain realistic expectations of side effects…I think I might be the pollyanna in the scenario this time. That’s novel…. He can’t find the adjective that describes how he feels. Anxious, fearful, reluctant, horrible, terrified, vomitous…. I would survey him, but I think that would make it worse. So. The big week is here. And it has nearly nothing to do with birthdays. In fact, I’ll almost be glad to be done with birthdays so that I don’t have to worry about them being overlooked in the chaos. Because in the midst of everything, I still have the energy to be worried about stuff like that. I seem to have a large, perhaps nearly infinite, capacity to worry. And then I remember that worrying doesn’t help anything. So I get up from the computer, stop playing silly games on Facebook, and try to do something to head off the eventualities that I most fear. At least the ones that I have some degree of control over. I can’t cure cancer, but I can plan skating parties for nine-year-olds. (A big thank you to Marian Singles for her tremendous help with that.) And I can talk to my kids, take them shopping for birthday presents, and remind them that God loves them and so do we. And I can update my blog so that all my thoughts stop swirling around in my head. And I can plan a post-treatment getaway with my husband – not the precise timing of it, but at least some details – as a belated birthday present…for myself…’cause I’m not shy about stuff like that!
I am sitting at a table overlooking the lobby of Clearview Cancer Institute, drinking a Diet Coke and eating Pringles, while my husband is being made temporarily radioactive. Okay, so maybe that is overstating the case a bit. Not the Diet Coke and Pringles, but the radioactive part. Adam is being injected with a radioactive solution so that they can scan his body for cancer. For the next 90 minutes or so, I will be sitting here waiting for him. Then, we will go eat lunch before proceeding home to commence waiting some more. This time we will be waiting to hear the report of the PET scan. We have been told by the medicine oncologist to expect a clear scan…which scares me. Why? Because if my expectations are of a good report and the news is actually bad, I will not just be disappointed – I will be devastated. In addition, I find myself totally obsessing over the correct punctuation of the previous sentence. Multi-tasking my obsessions and anxieties…joy. There are no little things right now. Everything feels really, really huge and overwhelming.
Which isn’t exactly true. Kara and Ethan are both doing well in school – Kara in particular is very proud of herself. She has always had trouble in school, especially with reading, but she is making huge progress right now. Permit me a moment to do the Snoopy happy dance…. You know – the one where you throw your head back in joyous abandon and dance around in circles? Ethan always does well in school…at least with the academic parts. He is also coping well, which is truly a miracle. He has bad days like the rest of us, but for a kid who has never dealt well with…well, with much of anything…he is staying remarkable sane. Unless I go off the deep end. Which I did yesterday. Let’s not talk about yesterday, shall we? Because yesterday was not a good day. Well, bedtime went well, but that was the highlight. Yeah. One of those days.
I keep wondering if hibernation is an option for me. I want to be here with Adam, get the kids off to school, and then be left alone about everything else. I don’t want to talk (at least until I get started, then I don’t want to stop), I don’t want to work, I don’t want to be needed…. I want to hide and read and sleep. But I can’t really relax, either. I feel really…hard. I`m not taking deep breaths or settling bonelessly into chairs, bed, or couches. I couldn’t even relax into the new hammock. I would say I feel brittle, but that implies that my protective shell is thin…and it’s not. It’s thick and well-nigh impenetrable. (I can’t believe I spelled that right on my first try!) Suddenly I feel like Dug in the Disney movie Up!: “Squirrell!” I am easily distractible. (I didn’t spell that correctly on the first try, for those who would like to keep track….)
But don’t worry. I’m not hibernating…or at least, I am leaving my den and keeping up with things like children’s birthdays – Kara will be 9 on Sunday; with activities, cooking, cleaning – at least with laundry and dishes; with homework, playtime, and bedtime – my afore-mentioned favorite time of day. In between those things, I’m trying to hibernate just enough…but not too much. I need the sleep and the pseudo-relaxing. And I probably need the protective shell for now, though it feels foreign and restrictive. There is too much to deal with all at once, so I need to let myself wait for some of it. And I plan to get a massage soon, and a pedicure, because my birthday is a week from Friday, and I do need to get some of the effects of stress worked out…or I’m going to get sick…and, as YouTube sensation Sweet Brown has said, “ain’t nobody got time for dat!”
Forgive my rambles and obsessions. Because this whole writing thing helps. Even when I’m less than impressed with my attention span.