Brighter ones ahead.
Today is a big day.
As I type these words, my wife is in surgery for her final breast reconstruction surgery.
It’s been a long road to get to this point. From a mammogram and chance early detection of a tumor in October, 2018 through almost six months of chemotherapy, a double mastectomy, and a total hysterectomy — not to mention lots of tears, worry, and an emotional roller coaster unlike anything I’ve ever been on, we’re finally here.
And while it may never truly be over — cancer has a way of always lingering in the back of my mind now — this is a major milestone.
So today, we celebrate getting to this point, hope for a quick, easy recovery, and look forward to everything that lies ahead.
Including a trip to Hawaii in the near future to celebrate.
Build them. Burn them. Or cross them.
But unless you’re admiring the design and architecture, don’t just stand there and stare at them.
Over a freaking mountain.
10 years in a row.
But this time the Race to Robie Creek was different. This one was harder.
This time, I carried the weight of my wife’s cancer diagnosis and six month’s worth of chemotherapy treatments. Not to mention an extra 15 or so pounds of my own that I didn’t previously have.
Nevertheless, I did it.
I set out slow, not expecting much for a finishing time. Hell, I just wanted to finish. My longest training runs this year were never more than 8 miles. I took it intentionally slow at the beginning, and didn’t push too hard trying to climb up the hill.
I just wanted something left in the tank for the downhill and the finish.
And it worked.
Gravity was my friend on the steeper parts of the downhill, and my patience earlier in the run paid off. But it wasn’t over yet. There were still several tough miles ahead.
Mile 11. That was for my kids. They may never realize it, but they make me want to do better. To be better.
Mile 12. That was for my wife. She’s done so many incredibly difficult things in the last six months and kept a positive attitude throughout it all. There have been hard times, but she never let that stop her. If she can go through that kind of hell, I knew I could make it another mile.
Mile 13 (and .1). That was for me.
When it was all said and done, somehow I even managed to finish 7 minutes faster than last year. How? I’m not quite sure. But I’ll take it.
And come April 18, 2020, I’ll do it all over again — provided I can get registered of course.
Because sometimes the hard things have to be done.
Because I still can.
And then there was one.
One more round.
One more trip to the infusion center for Samantha.
One more Monday sitting and watching liquid drip out of an IV bag, through a tube, and into the port implanted just under the skin in her chest.
One more chance to thank Dennis, an amazing volunteer, for helping us every week, making sure that my wife has a warm blanket shortly after we arrive, and that she is well taken care of.
One more time to see all of the nurses work their magic throughout the infusion center, helping so many others who are facing similar challenges and going through their own treatments.
And while it’s not the end, it will be — all things going according to plan — the last time we hear the beeping alarm of an infusion pump connected to my wife. The last time she stares at the same menu as the previous week, trying to decide what sounds decent for lunch.
It will also be the first.
The first day of April.
The first time she rings the bell at the entrance to the infusion center to signify that her treatment there is over.
The first time we won’t have to worry about, or plan around, another trip to MSTI the following week.
And the first time she’ll be able to say, “I’m done with chemotherapy.”
5 for 50.
That’s the deal I made in my head.
5 months of chemotherapy for my wife. 5 months of doing everything in my power to shoulder the load of life, so all she had to do was get through her treatment.
5 months of making sure the kids got to school and time as much as possible. 5 months of laundry, and dishes, of cleaning up after pets and cleaning out the chicken coop. 5 months of making sure we don’t run out of the essentials, like milk and bread, soap and shampoo.
5 months of watching her take on cancer head-on. With strength, determination, grace, beauty, and a positive attitude that just won’t quit.
5 months for at least 50 more years with her.
It’s been hard. It’s been painful to watch, knowing there wasn’t a damn thing I could do to lessen the pain, the fatigue, and every other side effect that came with each round of chemo. It’s been hard to watch her struggle — physically, mentally, and emotionally — with the hair loss, the weight gain, and the other effects of chemo on her body.
But throughout it all I’ve had this cheezy little mantra in my head…
5 for 50.
And as we come closer to the end of this phase in her cancer treatment, it keeps echoing around.
5 for 50. Almost there. 5 for 50.
Because this life we’ve built together doesn’t work without her.
That’s a word that has been used around our house a lot recently.
Fuck. Fuck. Fuck!
It’s equal parts anger, fear, exasperation, and everything in between. And with good reason.
My wife has breast cancer.
That’s a hard thing to type, let alone say out loud.
My wife has breast cancer.
Where to begin.
Early in October, my wife had a mammogram. Not because anything was wrong, or she felt something. Rather, it was because we had talked about the idea of her “getting her boobs picked back up where they’re supposed to be.” Because – to put it delicately – kids, breastfeeding, and well — life — can do a number on them. And in her case, they did.
She had talked with several friends who have had similar procedures, and a doctor in Utah was mentioned repeatedly. So she scheduled a consultation with them, and was planning to drive down to the Salt Lake City area for the day and meet with them.
Before doing that, however, she remembered a previous conversation she had with a surgeon’s office in Boise, and they recommended mammograms before any procedures were done. In Utah, however, they didn’t.
And now, we rewind. In 2016, she felt a lump in her breast, and had it examined. It turned out to be dense tissue, and nothing more. That being said, however, combined with the earlier conversation, led my wife to the idea that a mammogram would probably be a smart idea, even before the initial consultation in Utah.
By chance, she was able to get in right away. But they saw something suspicious they wanted to take a closer look at. So a diagnostic ultrasound was scheduled for the following week. And from there, a biopsy.
On Thursday, October 18th, the biopsy results came back. Cancerous cells.
Since then, it’s been a whirlwind of calls, doctor’s appointments, tears, anger, fear, laughs, smiles, and everything in between.
And a whole lot of fuck.
Fuck. I’m tired. But we roll on to the next day.
Because there’s no other fucking option.