For the better part of the past 12 years, Pierce Park Elementary School, it’s teachers, staff, and countless volunteers have been a part of our family.
Since our son’s first day of kindergarten in 2010 to our daughter’s final day of 6th grade, Pierce Park has been a consistent part of our lives. Our son has since moved on through Riverglen Junior High, and into Capital High School, and next fall our daughter will begin her next chapter at Riverglen as well. But Pierce Park will always be where it all started for them.
I am a product of the Boise School District, as is my wife. The influence that teachers we had along the way continues to be felt to this day, and helped shape us into the people we are today. Their impact isn’t just shown in test results or standardized scores, but in the lives that they impact. I’m proud to say that our children will be similarly guided by their teachers, past, present, and future.
While words don’t do nearly enough to express my gratitude, at the end of this, the most unpredictable and trying school year ever, I say this:
To all of you. Your influence, commitment, and dedication to students matters more than you can ever imagine.
As I sit here in the comfort of my home, I can’t pretend to imagine what a day in the life is like for black Americans, or people of color in our country. It’s easy to use phrases like those to sound politically correct, yet be stunningly generic. So let me try again.
I can’t imagine with a day in the life is like for my friend Brian, as he goes about his everyday while raising his intelligent, thoughtful, beautiful daughter in a society where the deck has been stacked against them for far too long. I can’t imagine what it’s like for Rod Gilmore, a well-recognized college football analyst who is also a practicing lawyer, that still gets harassed by police more times than he cares to mention.
Those are two very small, yet very real examples. I know there are many more.
It’s also easy to say “I can’t” and then rattle off a bunch of thoughts.
Instead, I’m going to focus on what I can do.
The deck is stacked against people like Brian or Rod? I can help shuffle that deck by voting–in every election. By voting for candidates who will bring change to law enforcement or the justice system, either directly or indirectly.
And that starts at the local level.
I can listen. And try to understand. And then listen some more.
I can speak up when I see something’s not right.
And most importantly, I can teach my children to do the same. To do better than my generation and those that came before me did. To be better.
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.
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.
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 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.