Guess what? We are still here! Adam met with his doctor at Clearview Cancer Institute today for a routine check, and it was indeed routine. Thank you God!!! Last Friday February 28th marked two years from his initial diagnosis, and this Sunday marks the second anniversary of the surgery that officially changed all of our lives. That was just the beginning of the hardest year of life so far – it’s a chapter that never fully ends but does get overshadowed at times by the newer ones. Again, thank you God! I keep thinking about where we were then and where we are now. I often get discouraged by where we still aren’t, but then I remember….
A son who
hated to leave the house and could barely tolerate the presence of anyone besides his immediate family still values his privacy and doesn’t want to be mentioned at all on my blog. A daughter who was terrified that her dad would die or that her parents would divorce (we’re still not sure why that was a fear – it was never a concern for us…). A husband who was barely there in any manner but the physical and who was always sick or in pain, not to mention roughly 15 mentally. Have I told you about the time he said that it wasn’t that he wasn’t listening to me, it was just that he didn’t care what I said? No? He did. Word for word. Out loud. Chemo brain is a thing. I didn’t consider divorce, but I wasn’t sure who exactly the guy in my house was. And I didn’t like him. And me? I worked at the after school program at our church and kept all the balls in the air as best as I could. I didn’t sleep or eat well, and I cried and yelled way too easily. That was 2013, and actually a good part of 2014. Did I mention that it wasn’t much fun?
When the school year ended last May, Adam was on daily medication for neuropathy, a side-effect of chemo, as well as being dependent on medical supplies for his digestive issues; one kid was on a pill for seasonal allergies that had always been a problem; one kid was using an inhaler semi-regularly for her newly diagnosed asthma; and I was on one daily medication for stress- and hormone-induced acne and another for acid reflux. When school started back and I was still crying and yelling too much, I went to see my doctor. She listened to me spew my worry about my kids’ mental health and Adam’s mental health and all the things and people I was worried and stressed about and then…then she did something amazing: she looked me in the eye and asked why I didn’t do something about the only person’s mental health that I could actually change. Yep. Mine. So we added another daily medication and counseling to my life. And something amazing happened. I was re-introduced to this person I used to know. Her name is Lydia and she had been missing for a long time, at least off and on. At about the same time, Adam hit the first anniversary of the end of chemo. Yay!!! And not so yay: that basically meant that any remaining side-effects were likely permanent. In Adam’s case, he is in for a lifetime of peripheral neuropathy (numbness in his hands and feet) which is exacerbated by cold weather and by being on his feet a lot. He is on medication to treat the symptoms, but the condition is persistent. So yay. And ugh. We are doing better physically and mentally, but we are still dealing with a lot and we are on lots of medicine.
Meanwhile, the whole world is going crazy over the latest, newest, most natural, most traditional way of improving wellness: essential oils. I’ll be honest. It was hard to be told by well-meaning friends or family that we should eat better / drink this thing / exercise this way / try this new treatment / eschew western medicine while Adam was faithfully slogging through the hell that is chemo. It was impossible to contemplate that chemo was a bad decision because it was such a horribly difficult one. I know no advice was meant to call his decision into question, but when everything is hard…EVERYTHING is hard. So while we were not theoretically opposed to trying alternatives to western meds, we weren’t in a big hurry to actually get into it. Until September of last year.
A friend from our seminary days had been commenting on facebook for a few months about the amazing results she’d seen in her family, and Hey! in September, there was this group online that she could add me to if I just wanted to learn a little about what oils can do. So I joined the group, tried to win some giveaways, and asked a lot of questions. Allergies? There’s a oil for that! That one works especially well for us – Private Son takes almost no allergy meds these days, for the first time since he was 2, and Adam swears by it. Depression and anxiety? Yup! (I use several of those, but still like my anti-depressant too.) Headaches? Another I use in conjunction with other meds – to great effect! Weight loss? Trying…. Acne? I have a whole new skin care system, and I think it’s really helping…. Pain? Numbness? Nerve damage? Focus? Anger? Hair growth? Lice? Yes, yes, yes, yes, and yes. Okay. At that point, I was torn between wondering if these people were crazy pot-smoking hippies or if I was going to have to re-mortgage my house to get in on this miracle! The truth? I didn’t have to mortgage the house, and while I am certain there are oil users who are also *ahem* herb users, everyone is their own brand of normal. Even the hippies! So I’m using oils and I like a lot of them. Nothing works for everyone, so not everything works for us, but many of them do. They aren’t magic, but they are useful. And I am doing my homework so that I don’t harm when I’m trying to help. And after enduring a treatment that was almost as bad as the illness…which was CANCER, for the love of all that is holy, it is amazing to see positive results from something that makes us feel better.
So that is our new chapter. We are taking life one day at a time – even though I really want to be able to plan and control everything – and are enjoying each other and life again. We are using oils and trying to get off some medications, but not all, and we feel better than we have in a long time. Which is amazing. So amazing that now I’m looking for a job and praying about sending the kids to a new school next year. ‘Cause, you know, we were afraid things might settle down and get boring. (No!!! We weren’t afraid of that! What is the matter with us? We are insane!)