Monday, May 27, 2013

It's a beautiful day...

The arrival of cancer in our lives has brought significance to things that I barely registered before.  I see an elderly couple and notice the privilege of growing old together.  I wipe down my kitchen counters and think, "This is a day when I had time and energy to clean up the kitchen."  And sometimes, when the house is quiet, and I'm sitting close to Chris, I can hear his heart beat.  So much depends on that steady rhythm.

This weekend we had hoped to meet Chris' family at his parents' lake house.  But this latest chemo has been complicated, and we still have to be at the hospital every day for blood work and new fluids.  We told the boys that they were going with their grandparents, but Chris and I would have to stay home.
Bryan:  (disappointed) Oh.  I prayed that you'd be able to come.  (Pause, then with fragile hope) So, maybe.
The boys left that evening.  Chris and I consulted and decided to get to the hospital early and hope that we got a flexible nurse.*  If we could get out of there by 9:00, we'd go out to the lake house for the day and surprise everyone.  Otherwise, we'd have to stay home.

We got a rock star nurse, really the perfect nurse for Chris.  He doesn't need a friendly nurse, a gentle nurse or even a good bed side manner.  What he wants is an efficient nurse who will minimize the time he has to spend inside the hospital.  She walked in our room, and, while working on changing out his fluids, said
They asked if you would rather let your first bag of fluids completely run out before changing them for you, and I said, 'No.  I know this guy.  He was here yesterday. What he wants is to get out of here as quickly as possible.'
By the time she finished saying that, she had already changed out the IV bags and was pointing us toward the closest exit.  We walked out of the hospital at 8:45 and started driving north.

They weren't expecting us.  Chris' sister, Amy, cried when she saw him.  His parents and the boys were thrilled.  It was a beautiful day.  I let it soak into my bones.  

My father-in-law pulled his grandchildren all around that lake on an inner tube.  Bryan, Rand and I were riding on the tube when we fell off, and it scared Rand.  He clung to me in the water while he cried.
Me:  Do you want to get back on the boat?
Rand:  (crying ceases immediately) No.  I go back on the tube.  You hold my hand.
David and Nathan flew off the tube and skipped across the lake like stones.  Amy managed to go tubing without ever submerging more than an ankle in the water, partly because she's married to a man who adores her, and he carried her from the boat to the shore.  Chris sat on the patio and talked to his family and watched his boys play in the lake with their cousins until they shriveled.  

My mother-in-law presided over a perfect Memorial Day spread - barbecue pork sandwiches, homemade macaroni and cheese, fresh fruit, Bluebell ice cream sandwiches...

There was even something soothingly, beautifully normal about rinsing mud out of Bryan's hair and settling a bedtime argument between David and Jacob,
Me:  (suppressing a laugh) No, David.  Crunching Cheetos onto Jacob's pillow is not a good joke.  That's obnoxious.
and determining the precise angle to open Bryan and Rand's door so that it was bright enough for Bryan to sleep in safety but Rand still felt like he had influenced the decision in some way.

It was a beautiful day.
Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.  James 1:17
* Exchanging IV fluids is a crap shoot.  Sometimes the stars are aligned and I convince everyone involved that it really doesn't matter if he finishes every last drop from the old IV bag before we start the new.  But often, we have to wait until every last drop from the old bag is gone before they'll start a new one.  Waiting an extra hour at the hospital may seem like no big deal, but it's not when you're there... Every.  Single.  Day.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The grocery store...

The following sentence is the steady drumbeat of our lives right now...
This is so hard.
The chemo that was supposed to be relatively easy has kicked our butts.  Chris has been as sick as I've ever seen him.  It's hard to watch him suffer.  It's hard to be patient and kind with the boys.  I handle the huge and horrible stuff with relative grace, but then someone dumps half of their bath water out of the tub, and I fall apart.  And right now, when I fall apart, my family falls apart.  

Friday was a particularly tough day.  I had to apologize to the boys for a lot.  In an attempt to head off another ugly scene, I spoke to them before we ventured inside the grocery store.
Me:  Boys, I'm having a hard day.  If you guys are difficult in the store, I'm probably going to sit down in the middle of the floor and cry and that's going to be embarrassing for everyone. 
Boys:  (stifling giggles because that sounds really funny but they can't figure out if laughing is going to make me flip out on them) 
Me:  (smile, so they know it's okay to giggle) So, for the sake of all our dignity, I need your best behavior in there.  (now stern)  And if you give me a hard time, you're getting a piece of bread for dinner, and you're going to bed at 7.
We made it through the grocery store without embarrassing ourselves.  Success.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Ten years old...

David turned 10 years old last week. Ten is a big birthday, and I see so many changes in him. Some make me sad, though nostalgic is probably a better word, some make me proud and excited to see how he turns out, and some make me nervous.

He doesn't spend hours playing with Legos.  He'd rather build a fire outside or ride his bike.  While he still engages in staged fist fights in Target with his cousin, he's no longer constantly armed with an imaginary light saber.

So much about David impresses me. He has his father's brand of pure, unfiltrated honesty. I praised him for working hard at some heavy yard work at his uncle's house.
David: (frank, confessional attitude) I wouldn't have done it if we didn't have to.
Another day I came in the house and found the boys calmly voting on various options for what to play next.
Me: Boys, I love to see you working together like this.
David: (more frank confession) We were arguing like mad* about a minute ago.
Me: (laughing) David, another way to say that is, "We were negotiating loudly and then decided to vote."  That's called a euphemism when you make something sound better than it is.
He came to us a few weeks ago and told us he thinks Halo Reach affects him and makes him want to hurt his brothers, and he didn't want to be in trouble all the time, and maybe he shouldn't play it anymore.** In many areas of my 36-year-old life, would that I had the maturity and insight of my 10-year-old.

At the tender age of 10, David is sure he wants to be a soldier. But he knows they don't get paid much, so he'll try to become a general in ten years or so. Despite my deep-seated fears, I'm not talking him out of his career choice directly because he's his father's son, and that would be... counterproductive. I'm not even using my sneaky, wily ways because... David doesn't belong to me. I hope this is just a 10 year old boy kind of thing, but it may not be, and I won't get in the way. God made David fierce and if, as I hope and pray, David devotes his life to pursuing God, that will involve every part of who he is.

David's birthday fell on a tough, tough week for us this year, but we rocked it out.

Donuts for breakfast
Harley Davidson to dream
Lunch date with just Chris and me
Basketball game where I held my own
Call of Duty where I got schooled
Movie with his dad
Then Saturday, Splashtown with his cousin
And one of his famous fires
It's been so fast going from here
To here

* David uses a lot of British terminology because he has listened to the Harry Potter series so many times. Somehow I can't be as firm as I should be about calling his brothers prats. It makes me giggle.
** He then immediately launched into the reasons why Call of Duty and Minecraft were fine.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Minimal side effects, except for one little thing...

Chris started chemo yesterday. He'll alternate between three month sessions of two different drugs for a year. This time it's outpatient (glory hallelujah!). The side effects of the first drug will be minimal. He won't even lose his hair, which is odd considering that... IT'S A GUARANTEED LETHAL DOSE. Chris is a think-outside-the-box kind of guy, and it sounds like one of his crazier ideas. The poison works on both normal and cancerous cells, but the antidote works only on the normal cells. Clever. I think there's an episode of House there. The hospital administered the poison and then sent us home with the antidote which must be taken every six hours around the clock until the poison has essentially gone from his blood. I feel the way I did when they sent us home from the hospital with newborn David.
Is this wise? Are you sure you should be trusting us with this?
It's a mad, mad world.

* Shameless plug for sympathy, because, you know, no one feels sorry for me right now: Okay, I'm philosophically opposed to Mother's Day, but yesterday was too much. After we got home from the hospital and five minutes after my in-laws left, Rand threw up everywhere. In the middle of the clean up, I realized we didn't have the right stuff at home to protect Chris overnight from his medicine. But, a friend-hero showed up with Zofran for Rand and the right medical supplies for Chris (obtained from a rock star former science teacher who keeps pH strips at home to do experiments with her grandkids), and saved me from a certain mental breakdown.

Saturday, May 11, 2013


Yesterday was tough.  We met with the oncologist.  Things are serious but certainly not hopeless.  They were able to remove all the cancer from Chris' knee.  The serious risk in this has always been to his lungs.  No cancer has been detected there so far.  He continues to be at significant risk for it, though.  

Chris will start chemo on Sunday and will be on it for a year.  He'll have periodic scans to check his lungs.  We don't know how often they'll be, and honestly are not hankering to begin a new wait for results.  

We really appreciate your prayers and support in this.  Specific things you can pray for or send good vibes on if that's more your style:

1.  Chris' lungs would stay cancer free.
2.  Wisdom in speaking with the boys about this.
3.  Wisdom in figuring out childcare for the summer and next school year.
4.  That we would lean into the Lord right now and take our anxieties to Him.
5.  Emotional, physical and spiritual protection for the boys.
6.  That we would LIVE and not just survive.

We are so thankful for all the supportive and generally amazing people in our lives right now.  Thank you.  Really.

Friday, May 10, 2013

A storm...

I haven't written much over the past few weeks because I just don't have a lot to say, and one of my rules for this blog is that I'm not allowed to make up stuff. The waiting for results has been grueling. Given our reality, I think we've been okay, but it's taken all my emotional energy. There's nothing left for this space.

Chris is recovering well from surgery. PT is a full time job, and he's doing it faithfully and making a lot of progress. He moved from the walker to crutches last week. He's been able to go out to eat and to the movies. His beard has grown back. I'm emotionally attached to it. It makes me feel like all is well in the world.

The pathology results are ready. We have an appointment with the oncologist this afternoon. This is the part where we find out what to expect over the next few years... sort of. He'll start chemo again next week. So, the next emotional battle begins this afternoon and the physical battle next week.

There's a big Houston storm brewing outside with torrential rain, high winds and hail. When I saw the overcast sky this morning, I thought, "Perfect. The sun would be obnoxious today." Then we started driving home from PT in the downpour. You should know that Chris has, err, doubts about my driving abilities. In normal life circumstances, I rarely drive us and never in his car. His car is more comfortable for him to ride in with the bum leg than mine. This means we've spent the last few weeks with... new marital conflict.
Chris: You don't need to talk right now. Just focus on staying in your lane.
Summer: (more sarcasm and inappropriate humor than emotional sorrow and angst) I'm not like you. It helps me to talk. Plus I don't care about staying in my lane. I just care about being loved and adored... Oh my gosh. This is actually my nightmare scenario. I'm driving you in your car in a terrible storm on a day when we're going to find out how likely it is that you'll survive the next few years. This is like a horror film.
Chris: (matter of fact) It's a good scene for your book.
So, when I drive Chris in his car on a normal sunshiny day, he can't resist instructing me about squaring off my turns. (Side note: I can't fully express how much I don't care about squaring off turns. I think Chris and my dad are the only two human beings in the world who invest any emotional energy in them.). He gasps and grits his teeth. It's obnoxious. But in truly dangerous driving conditions, he knew I couldn't handle his driving rules, as reasonable as he thinks they are. He started singing me songs from Moulin Rouge. Because he's awesome.

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