**My wonderful, handsome husband, Bryan, is taking over my blog today to write out some of his thoughts and feelings that he has had during this whole journey. I am thankful for his openness and courage to share his heart, even when it isn’t easy to deal with. Love you, babe.
Here I sit, patiently awaiting my medical activities for the day, and I can’t help but think back over the last several months of my life. A blur of events — I can hardly believe there actually was a “summer” this year, primarily because there has been a bit of a frigid and icy atmosphere surrounding my reality for the last few months. Now, don’t get me wrong, I am blessed beyond belief — and I still believe this wholeheartedly, in fact, more strongly than ever, but no matter how I look at the last few months of my life, two words come crashing into my mind: This Sucks.
As many of you know, I have been relatively silent regarding my current life battle — I’ve been using a bit of a “focus on silently destroying this challenge” mentality — but I am finding that inside, my thoughts are screaming to be released. This should make perfect sense if you even know me just a bit; I certainly enjoy a great conversation, especially when that conversation includes meaningful feelings that fuel one’s soul. So today, in what I fear may turn into a series of thoughts, I begin to unlatch my thoughts. I’m not sure what this will accomplish, but I yearn for two things
- To free my mind of all these pent-up thoughts/details/feelings
- To provide the potential that my suffering may be of service to someone else (thanks to my mother-in-law for sharing this vision with me!)
Today, I want to start by sharing a timeline of important dates, so that you might know what actually all went down over the last few months. If you find this to be dry, boring reading, please do not hesitate to click the “x” on the top right corner of the page but if not, let’s go back to the beginning.
Friday, May 8th. A normal day in my life (I can’t believe how much I long for “normal” these days!); I recall the day well. I had just completed an enjoyable effort of mowing the lawn, a favorite activity of mine as I have my favorite music on blast and it provides a break from the day-to-day efforts as a parent/husband/businessman. When I came back in the house, I took a minute to rest on the couch (picture me in full “hands resting on my head mode”) as I released my hands from my head, I noticed an odd protrusion on my neck, just above my left clavicle. Instantly, my reality turned from relaxation to curiosity. My lymph node was not happy and I immediately prayed this was not what my heart feared in that first moment. I tend to be a positive thinker and I believe this was one of the last truly positive thought moments I would have for several weeks.
Monday, May 11th. After a weekend of concern, I scheduled a walk-in appointment to have my doctor check out my lymph node — I had hoped it would “disappear” over the weekend, but unfortunately this was not the case. My doctor was not available on such short notice, so I saw his Nurse Practitioner. After the usual tests and questions, she hoped it was a simple infection, and commented that this was “the most impressive lymph node she had ever seen.” I scheduled to stop by later that week to follow up, gave some blood for further testing, and prayed.
Tuesday, May 12th. I had a previously scheduled checkup with my dermatologist due to my regular “skin issues” and the moment she saw the lymph node, I could see it in her eyes that she feared this was something more serious. I remember her asking if it hurt when she palpated it. When I said it did not, she was especially concerned. She definitely did her best to play “poker face”, but I have a bit of a gift in this area, and was certain of the depth of her concern. I let her know I had a follow-up scheduled with my doctor, and she asked me to keep her posted. The treatment for my skin issues she had planned would have to wait until she had more information regarding this lymph node.
Thursday, May 14th. This was the date I was able to see my primary doctor. The first thing he did was review my lab results — everything looked fantastic. He checked out my lymph node, looked at my labs again, and I remember exactly the way he said “hmmmmm” as he mysteriously looked into my eyes. He shared a series of words and thoughts here, but one word stood out as he spoke. This was the first time I heard “lymphoma” thrown out as a possibility. I can still see him saying that word in slow-motion today. He was suspicious, but was confused by my lack of symptomatic behavior. He ordered an ultrasound to take a deeper look and briefly prepped me on the process should this be an item that needed greater attention.
Wednesday, May 20th. This day marked my first visit to the clinic — this time, for an ultrasound. I really hoped this was the last time I’d be there. I briefly waited for my turn, and when I was called, I was met by a pleasant woman. I was instructed by my Doctor that they were trained to keep results from me, to preserve myself from unnecessary worry. I can still feel my heart beating as she thoroughly checked my neck area. It felt like an eternity. After completing the exam, I couldn’t help but ask, “I know you are trained not to say anything, but do you have any insights for me?” She replied, “All I know is you have several lymph nodes that are not happy campers.” My doctor called me a few hours after my ultrasound, and urged me to schedule a CT scan as soon as possible as he wanted to thoroughly see how far this “unhappiness” had progressed.
Friday, May 22nd. I arrived at the clinic for my first ever CT Scan. I had no idea how this worked, and was quite surprised when a tech delivered two cups of this disgusting liquid to drink. I actually thought he was kidding, but unfortunately he was not. I was then warned that while getting the scan, it may feel like I’m peeing — oh the joys of medical stuff (I can’t say I agree with this description)! The CT Scanning device was not what I pictured. I had envisioned the fully enclosed machinery I often saw in shows like “Greys Anatomy”, but was pleased to learn it was much less intense and was nothing but a small “donut-like” circle that moved and adjusted to take internal pictures. And then, the waiting began.
May 23rd – 25th. Memorial Day weekend. My doctor advised that I meet with a surgeon right after Memorial Day in case I would need to schedule a procedure to remove the lymph node so it could be properly tested to determine what this actually was. Likely she would be able to review the results with me as well as they would be available by this point in time. I scheduled a get-together with this surgeon for the following Monday. This was possibly the longest weekend of my life — very little enjoyment, very much stress and fear, not things I am used to feeling given my preference to enjoy every bit of life.
Tuesday, May 26th. This was the day I met with the surgeon. As Abby and I arrived for this appointment, I was met with uneasiness. Perhaps it was the heavy rain and cloud-cover or perhaps it was the cloud of hope that was slowly disappearing in front of my eyes. The surgeon was a pleasant woman, the kind of person I would envision having a beautiful chat with, but her first words shared were nowhere near what I’d want to be talking about: “Have you spoken with the oncologist yet?” There were more words shared after that, but I can tell you, my heart and mind were racing. She shared a written summary of the analysis of my CT scan, which was like a foreign language to me, but there it was, right at the end: “likely lymphoma”. These two words teased me for the next week. Why couldn’t it say “certain lymphoma” or “not lymphoma”? My surgery could not be completed for another week and until reviewing the chemical results of that biopsy, we would not be certain of anything.
Monday, June 1st. This was the day of my first surgical procedure (unless you count wisdom tooth extraction—which in my opinion was more like a “mob visit” than surgery). I was incredibly nervous for this day despite the fact that I was aware that this was very simple procedure. My lack of experience here left me keenly aware of each moment of fear. So many small details stick in my mind from this day: The warnings and the disclosures. The uncomfortable attire. The conversation with the anesthesiologist as he pumped me with the magic elixir. The discussion between the surgeon and the anesthesiologist—a regular conversation about scheduling-issues and casual friendly conversation. The lights above the surgery table. The conversation with the assistant’s… and then… nothing. Next thing I knew, I was awake in recovery, drinking apple juice and eating shortbread cookies. This idea still frightens and amazes me. What did I say? Was I funny? Annoying? I guess I’ll never know. 🙂
Tuesday, June 2nd. I remember having a particularly busy and exciting day at work, and when I arrived home around 8:15 PM, I was ready to rest and relax for a moment. As I sat down after helping get the kids to bed, my phone rang. I ran to our bedroom so I wouldn’t disturb the kids, and on the other end of the line was my surgeon. I’ll never forget the hope in her voice, almost an excitement in her voice, as she said “It’s Classical Hodgkin’s!” All I heard in that moment was, “I have cancer.” And as she rattled off statistics about the cure rate being 70% or higher, my heart and soul sank deeper than they had ever been.
I want to pause here because this moment in my life feels big — intense, an inflection point in the most meaningful of ways. As I pressed the “end” button after that phone call, I was encapsulated by darkness and doubt. I’m certain my wife could see it and feel it based on the look in her eyes. I have often been told that I have an amazing ability to affect the energy of a room, usually in a positive way, but in this case, in the darkest of ways. There were no words — just the embrace of a scared couple. That embrace was one of the most intimate moments of my life. I don’t think it was possible to be any closer, physically or mentally, to one human being. I think this was the first time I let tears out in front of Abby since the tears I shed as I saw her for the first time in her wedding dress — quite the paradox of moments — equally powerfully, but on opposite ends of the spectrum.
I have experienced darkness in life on a few occasions, but none that couldn’t be solved quickly with a smile, confidence, and prayer. This darkness seemed deeper, but as God usually has a knack of doing, it was pretty evident that through this darkness, a faint light began to shine.
**More to come. We would love continued prayers for health, energy and a lifted spirit for Bryan and continued health for our family as we enter cold and flu season (we really want to keep Bryan from getting sick!). Side note: our kids have been sick ONE time this entire last five months which is nothing short of God’s hand in our lives and protecting Bryan. He is SO faithful. Bryan has TWO treatments left and we are so happy that the end is near! Thank you for praying!