“When life knocks you down, roll over and look at the stars” – Unknown
Marley escorted us out of the hospital with more determination than should come from a child. The surgery left the muscles in my chest, neck and arms very weak. Lifting my arms and carrying items were difficult but Marley was a trooper. She helped me get dressed, carried my backpack, medical supplies and more. The smile never left her face. There are many moments, as a parent, when you look at your child and are filled with pride. Dave and I walked out of the hospital with Marley and it’s one of our proudest moments.
Arriving at home was wonderful and bittersweet. It had been 7 days away from home and our second daughter, Ellie. While I was beyond excited, the moment she saw me resulted in a look that went straight through me. She was told I was at the hospital to get better. Ellie, after a cautious approach and reluctant hug, looked up and said, “You’re not better, you’re sick”. It was a statement, not a question. I purposely wore clothing covering my neck, arm and leg bandages. But still, she saw the look in my eyes. It took everything I had but, despite this, that was the first moment when I let myself think, “Why?” and I sat down and cried.
We were up throughout the night for feedings and to maintain the medication schedule. My medicine was ground up, mixed in with Ensure and taken by syringe as I couldn’t swallow the pills. Then, we were up and back at the James. Dave had to help with my car door, buckling my seat belt and walking me into the hospital only 18 hours after leaving. Weak and tired we attempted to make it through the appointment. The dentist needed to provide clearance for radiation and to explain the impacts the treatment will have on my teeth, bones, tissue, etc. The information was appreciated but it didn’t take long before it started. I proceeded to get sick in front of the staff and, even with Dave trying to calm me down, it lasted until we walked out of the hospital. The limitations of my physical state were abundantly clear.
And, then the stars came out.
Transitioning to home life was hard. There was very little I could do on my own despite my desire to be up and about. This weighed very heavily on me mentally. I impatiently waited for the pathology results which kept me from sleeping. I worried about the continued weight loss. I worried about the handfuls of hair falling out knowing it was a result of the stress. Cancer doesn’t define who we are nor should it dictate how we live. I lost that we are in control of who we are and how we live with cancer. I regained my outlook thanks to…
Time and healing. The worry has slowly slipped away and the mood of everyone in our home has greatly improved. There’s laughter and smiles once again. We spend lots of time playing cards, watching movies and time as a family.
Family and friends supported me with visits, told me what needed to be said vs. what I wanted to hear and viewed my new scars as badges of honor in our battle.
And, the unwavering support from all of you. Dinners from friends continue to be delivered every 3 days and donated gift cards help with meals on the other days. A chore schedule is in place so our home is taken care of and we can concentrate on what’s important. A beautiful blanket and scarf keep us warm thanks to two individuals. A local church donated a month supply of Ensure and weight gain protein powder. A smoothie expert gave a personal tutorial so I can make edible smoothies with Ensure and protein powder. Over 185 folks generously donated to the Gofundme and via mail so we no longer think about the bills pouring in. More than 60 cards have come in the mail and text messages come in daily. A group of Nationwide folks formed HUGS which delivers wonderful packages filled with items, including a tongue twister joke book. There are shirts underway for folks to wear while treatment takes place and so much more.
You have provided the stars while we were down. We are so unbelievably blessed to have all of you in our lives and, please know, you are now in our extended family. Our gratitude runs deeper than we can ever express in words, thank you so very much.
Phase 1, surgery, is complete and it’s time for phase 2, radiation and chemo. We’re in it to win, let’s do this. ~ Stephanie