I know I’m not alone when I say that the last couple of years have been a complete and utter cluster-cluck. The pandemic was hard enough with school going virtual, work shutting down for a couple of months, wondering if we were going to be unemployed and lose everything. We survived it, but 2020 decided to go down swinging.
A couple of days after Christmas, I took my husband to the emergency room for severe abdominal pain that had been building for weeks. His primary care doctor hadn’t come up with a correct diagnosis after multiple tests, and I was not going to wait anymore. I’d have taken him on Christmas except that it had snowed so much there was no way to get a car out or ambulance in due to the steep hills every direction, and it wasn’t possible for him to walk to the nearest cleared road to catch a ride from there. When I think about it at all, I can still feel the suffocating anxiety. How would I get him to the hospital? Would they be able to figure out what was wrong?
At the emergency room, the doctor said it sounded like classic gallbladder symptoms and sent him for a CT scan. Two hours later, he was in emergency surgery for a baseball-sized bowel obstruction. Six more hours passed alone in the surgical waiting room until I learned from a surgeon I’m fairly certain is still in middle school that the obstruction was a tumor, likely cancer. It amazes me the ease with which doctors can toss around words like “cancer” and “chemotherapy,” weightless as feathers instead of life-altering bricks raining from the sky. A biopsy later, and cancer was confirmed. We learned entirely new vocabulary. “Clean margins.” “5FU.” “Neuropathy.”
The following six months were lived in two-week increments. Chemo one week, recover the next, lather, rinse, repeat. The nice planner I bought for 2021 lay collecting dust on my dresser. Goals shifted from writing a couple thousand words a night to “get dinner on the table. Wash dishes. Did The Destroyer finish his homework?” Our lives were measured out in episodes of “The Office,” “Jeopardy,” “Wheel of Fortune.” Our social connections consisted of friends dropping off a meal the evening after treatment. We kept our heads down, and kept moving, one foot in front of the other.
Chemo ended a year ago. We began to make plans. Not big ones. We’re going to hike Gregory’s Bald, LeConte Trail, Charlie’s Bunyon. Next year. We’ll hike. We’ll get out and do it in 2022. Because we can. With this kind of cancer, if it doesn’t return in 2 years, it’s unlikely to ever come back again. We like those odds. 2023, we’re coming for you.
I don’t know when it happened, but one day I looked up and realized that we have moved on. One clear CT scan led to another, and then to another, and now we’re living our lives as though cancer never existed. It is a blip on a radar, a speck in the rear-view mirror. We adopted a dog-monster. Her name is Storm, and she has the energy of a caffeinated hurricane. I would never have considered adding chaos to the household if we were a cancer family, when we needed life to be as uncomplicated as possible.
We’ve hiked, too. Boy, have we hiked. We hit all three of our target trails within the span of a month, about 30 miles and God only knows how much elevation gain. On Gregory’s Bald, I kept thinking we would eventually run out of “up.” The Padawan even joined us for that one. We missed the peak of Flame Azalea season by about 10 days, but it was still worth it. We did it. We survived, and now we thrive.
Our next adventure is a trip to Peru to work on reforestation in the Peruvian Amazon. The Padawan is joining us for that one, too. Two weeks in the forest with no electricity or running water? Bring it. I did finally think to clear it with the oncologist a couple of weeks ago as an afterthought. She shrugged. “I don’t see why not.” Me, neither.
And here’s the best news. 2 years is considered cured. We learned at our last visit that the clock started the day they removed the tumor, not the day chemo ended. On December 27, we’ll be celebrating that two full years without cancer. We don’t have a year and some change to go; we have four months. In four months, this whole episode can be chalked up as a major pain-in-the-ass inconvenience and nothing more. We’re here. We’re back. We’re in this game to win it.
Was thinking about you only the other day. Delighted to hear your news. Funny what you start doing after such a scare. Sounds like you’ve got it sorted and with a friendly hurricane too 😀
I keep sending people your way. If you have folks with pets from the US who are moving to Europe, they’re probably from me.
Very glad that all of you are well and revved up :). Safe travels! You are a treasure.
That is one of the nicest things anyone has ever said to me. Thank you!
Ohmigosh, December 27 is SO CLOSE! Not at all ashamed to tell you that I cried reading this.
All the love and strength to you and yours from me and mine. 🖤🖤🖤
Oof. A fuster-cluck couple years INDEED. #understatement
So grateful to hear your family is not only seeing the end of that particular tunnel but that you’re already charging out swinging!
We’re ready to kick some ass and take some names!
I love everything you write, but “4 more months” is undoubtedly my favorite! Sending you all so much love and derp-faces xo
FOUR MORE MONTHS!!!
I have missed your posts. What a few years–for all of us, but especially for those of us with challenges like yours. (My 2020 day planner goes blank in March.) My husband died in July after a four year battle with Parkinson’s and my granddaughter, who lives with me, has major health struggles. One foot in front of another indeed. You are so strong. Hugs and good wishes for a long future of good health for your family! (If you’re not following my blog, I’d love for you to do so.)
I am so, so sorry for your loss. I can’t even breathe thinking about it.
I also think I have post-Covid symptoms. I had it the week before my husband died (and the hospice nurse kindly let me see him the day he died, bless her). I’m exhausted all the time, have very little sense of taste, and so on. The past two years have been the worst ever.
I cannot find a subscribe button on your blog.
Thank you for checking! When I log on it recognizes me as the owner of the site, so I’m not sure what interface you are seeing. I’ll see if I can figure out what the problem is.
I am so sorry that you had to go through all of that, but I am happy that you guys are coming out on top! Congrats on the furry addition. She’s a doll!
How lovely to pop in here after all this time and THERE YOU ARE!! Fighting the good fight! You go lovely. Your family are warriors! Peru!!!