Thursday, May 5, 2016

The odds in our favor...

Guys, we got some really great cancer news this week.  To appreciate it, you need to understand where we've been over the last three years.  Here's the condensed version:

C:  My knee hurts.
S:  I'm sorry to hear that, but I'm still going to need you to hang the Christmas lights.
(next day)
C:  My knee hurts.
Doc:  You have cancer.

Chris was 37.  The boys were 3, 6, 7 and 9.  Our whole life exploded.

Doc:  If chemo shrinks the tumor, your odds are great.

Two months of chemo.  We're in and out of the hospital.  Chris is miserable.  Rand starts crying when I need to leave him.  My big boys are struggling in less direct but louder ways.  The only place I can cry is in the car between the hospital and home.

Doc:  That chemo didn't work.  If the next one shrinks the tumor, your odds are good.  If not,...

Two more months of chemo.  Now we have a system.  The grandparents, aunts, and uncles have almost completely taken on parenting duties.  Chris has found some sort of mental zone where he's able to cope with the awfulness of chemo.  I've developed a twitch in my eye from the stress.

Doc:  Chemo #2 didn't work.  Let's take out the tumor.  Your odds are not good.  This will probably get you in the end, but maybe not.

Remove Chris' knee along with a good bit of thigh bone and some muscle.  Another year of chemo (while trying to regain mobility with the massive leg surgery) to hopefully blast any hidden cancer cells.  This is our life now.  Every month, as soon as Chris claws his way out of the pit that is chemo, it's time to give him more.  But we make it.  We survive a year and a half of chemo.

Doc:  Great news - you're done with chemo.  Other news - your odds don't change unless you make it two more years cancer-free.  Come back in three months.

When he was first diagnosed, it was like Chris was dropped in the middle of the ocean and had to swim to shore, with the boys and me on a raft, paddling beside him.  And now we've made it to land, but we don't know how long we can stay.  We're on a kind of three month shore leave.  So we try to balance enjoying the heck out of our time on land with preparing for another stint in the ocean - one that Chris may not survive.  And this is where we've been for the past two years - living our lives in three month chunks.  We've made a kind of peace with that arrangement, but it colors everything.  I watch Chris having a moment with one of the boys and remember how much they'll miss if we lose him.  I see older couples together and know that's probably something we'll miss.  I get tired and freak out on the boys and realize again what a crappy single parent I would be.  It's been a wonderful two years, and we've leaned in to this time and have loved on our boys and one another, but always with this heaviness and fragility.

But, we made it past another scan this week, and the doctor has adjusted Chris' prognosis.

Doc:  Things are looking good guys.  At this point, cancer is unlikely to come back.  We still have to check you every few months, but you no longer need to plan your lives around the possibility of more chemo.

It's the difference between, "May the odds be ever in your favor" Effie Trinkett style and "The odds are in your favor" from an oncologist.  And that changes everything.  We can make plans more than three months out without an asterisk.  I have fewer excuses to cry.  Guys, I will probably not have to navigate teenage boy territory by myself.  I can sit on the sidelines, sipping a margarita, cheering Chris on as he guides those precious boys through adolescent, testosterony minefields.  This thing - life with Chris and the boys - didn't feel like a gift until it was broken.  There's a whisper of redemption in it.

"Everything sad is going to come untrue and it will somehow be greater for having once been broken and lost."  Tim Keller

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