Or, as the oncology nurse was so kind as to point out during the visit last month where it was confirmed that yes, the cancer is indeed back: “Well, it’s not your first time at the rodeo, that’s for sure.”
Um …. Thanks??? I ….. think???
Anyway, it seems the wheels of progress are either excruciatingly slow, or spinning at top speed. After not hearing anything from anyone, all week, we got a call late Friday afternoon confirming Blaine begins radiation today. Although he’s scheduled for thirty-two sessions in a row, we already know he’ll miss day #2 --- because let’s not forget that in the middle of this little bitty minor nuisance we like to call “CANCER RECURRANCE”, we still can’t find a doctor at Tinker, or in the greater metro area, with the gonads to write a script for the narcotics he takes. That he has taken for four years. Four years of medication, without a single problem, yet no-one here is sure they are ok for him to take.
So the government will waste an entire days’ work for him, and taxpayer’s money, to fly him to San Antonio, to meet with a military doctor THERE who states (and has stated since he had his first visit almost a year ago, in complete agreement with Blaine’s pain management doctor in Georgia) that his prescriptions are completely and totally appropriate, thank you very much. So that a single button on a single computer screen can be “approved” and Blaine can then fly all the way home and have the pharmacy on his base actually fill the prescription. At least we hope. They told him last month that the pharmacy doesn’t think Blaine needs these meds; at least not in this amount. Isn’t that helpful?? I’m so glad they are able to make that judgment based purely on ….. what? Can anyone tell us what they are basing that on? And why .... in the face of 32 upcoming radiation treatments ... now would be the time to DECREASE his pain meds????
Again --- Whatever. It’s not like I’m frustrated.
But bottom line is Blaine will miss radiation day 2 for travel, and although they said it was six weeks of radiation at five days a week, if *I* do the math …. Not that math was ever my strong point ….. but if *I* do the math, thirty-TWO sessions is a little more than six weeks. So six weeks, plus a session or two, or maybe even three or four if he has to make up the ones he misses ….. drop the zero …. Carry the one ….. round to the nearest decimal ….. the way I figure it, Blaine will be finishing radiation sometime around mid-November.
Egads. That’s like a lifetime away.
So. If we could be so bold as to give all of you a list of specific prayer requests …. Or warm thoughts, or chanting, or incense, or positive imagery, or whatever else it is you prefer to do unless it’s sacrificing a live chicken because while I have no qualms about eating meat and absolutely no desire to go vegan, I would still hate to have the death of innocent chickens on my shoulders for nothing more than good thoughts for Blaine ….
So, if we could ask you to pray specifically, it would be for the following things:
That *this* radiation, *this* time, kills the active cancer cells for good, and they never come back again, and this is absolutely the last freaking time he has to hear the words, “I’m sorry, you have cancer” for ever and ever, amen.
That he tolerates the side effects of radiation well.
That they (meaning the people who administer the radiation) are able to spare his remaining salivary gland. Since the right one was zapped with the first go-round, he’s already operating on decreased capacity …. For someone like me, who has a tendency to gleek when I’m excited, less spit doesn’t sound so bad. But apparently, so they tell me, spit also helps you swallow, eat, and protects your teeth. Lord knows operating at 50% capacity is bad enough …. Let’s pray he doesn’t go down to zero.
That the radiation isn’t too hard on his teeth. (Seriously. Who knew radiating certain parts of your head could affect all those other parts in such a negative way???)
That we win the lottery. Oh, wait. Wrong journal entry.
Several of you have asked how Blaine is holding up mentally. Honestly, he’s just ready to get this show on the road. Ironically, the weather here is cooling off and the humidity is lower, and he’s felt better the past month or two than he has since we moved here. Sucks, really, that he’s fixing to lose all that.
Or, you know, maybe he won’t. Maybe he’ll come through this with flying colors and never miss a day of work and absolutely NOT feel like his entire head has been microwaved, like it did last time.
Hey, a girl can dream.
Although, is it terrible of me to admit that since I canceled my annual Girls Scrapbook Getaway (with the best stinking girlfriends on the planet) in Chicago next week …. I must confess I’m going to be a wee bit annoyed if he feels great the entire time and doesn’t need me at all to pat his hand or bring him 7-up or mop at his brow with a damp cloth .... ?? You know. Not that I’m shallow or petty or anything. It’s just that if I’m giving up Chicago, I *better* feel needed while I’m here!
So for the most part, he (we) just want to get this over with. I'll be going with him to his first appointment today to talk to the doctors and ask lots of very important questions, like "why this?" and "why not this?" and most urgent of all, "Can you validate our parking??"
Then, there is a small part of us that feels annoyed and offended by cancer in general --- still stinging a bit at the insult of a recurrence. Not so much a “Why Me?” or “Life’s Not Fair” …. Just “Wow, This Really Bites” sort of feeling, and not a whole lot you can do about it.
And even a small part of us that feels embarrassed ... admitting something is wrong, and asking for help in any capacity, time and time and time again, is humbling and frustrating and exhausting. Fortunately, the vast majority of friends and family have come through for us with flying colors over and over. To be honest, it's always a little bit of a surprise to discover who bails .... but I suppose all life lessons are helpful, whether we realize it at the time or not.
And then, odd as it might sound, there is a huge part of us that is feeling: Gosh Darn Lucky.
(Yeah, “gosh darn” isn’t quite emphatic enough …. But even someone with a sailor mouth like mine has to draw the line at certain curse words.)
Here are the good things that have happened this past week, and part of the list of why we think we’re lucky:
Blaine got an all-clear from his dentist to proceed with radiation. Radiation to the oral cavity is extremely hard on the teeth (see above prayer list) and add to that the lack of spit in his mouth (again, see above) well, he’s had chronic problems with his teeth since this whole shebang started. I’m pretty sure he has permanent dentist-chair impressions on his butt. So to hear “No cavities, good to go” was a huge blessing.
Doctors and nurses have actually returned our phone calls, and apologized that we were left in the dark, even for only a few days.
Friends and family have reached out and offered us support and encouragement. (Dixie, the only thing in the world I love as much as chocolate is peanut brittle, so that box was perfect, thank you!) and (Kristin, the Quiet Heroes bag had so much amazing stuff in it … thank you so much for thinking of me, even though I couldn’t join all of you in Atlanta this year!) and (Renee’, I’m going to wear my bracelet the entire time ya’ll are in Chicago …. And possibly get drunk on Amaretto Slushies so I’ll quit feeling sorry for myself for missing it this year ….) and (to the person who sent our family the box from Jelly Bellies … dear Lord, I’m embarrassed. In their haste to rip open the box my children must have eaten the note or return address because I could not find it ANYWHERE --- thank you, and I’m so sorry I can’t thank you personally! Who are you?) and even more than the packages and cards and e-mails is the knowledge that so many of you are keeping our family in your thoughts.
And lastly, that although this is a trial that we’d rather not have, it’s certainly not the hardest one we’ve ever faced, and no where near as hard as the trials of others. Sadly, Blaine and I know too many families who would give anything to trade places with us. Surely the good health of a parent is bittersweet when the life of a child has been lost. How many families would be willing to trade the health of one of the parents if that meant they could have their child back with them, healthy and whole?
So whenever I get all pity-party-ish and feeling sorry for myself, I remind myself that WE. ARE. LUCKY.
And we better not ever forget it.
PS. Mitchell, I only met you once, at a 4th of July party. Your mom and I sat and talked about having kids who had undergone leukemia treatment, and compared stories and notes. Although that was as close as I ever got to you, I can see, even from here, what an impact you made on this community. There is no doubt in anyone’s mind how much your parents miss you. Your sister misses you. The kids at the school miss you. The boys on your baseball team miss you. As the anniversary of your death passed this weekend, it was the kick in the pants that I personally needed --- to remember to count my blessings, which thankfully far outweigh the bad.