Life has a funny way of throwing things into your face. You may think you know what’s going on when in reality you are just as clueless as the moment you awoke this morning, groggy eyed, wondering if everything flailing inside your brain was a dream or a continued reality you just cannot grasp.
Last week I dreaded going camping, it felt as though I was trespassing on the sacred vows of marriage. The thought of leaving my wife behind at Stanford where she has been for three weeks to camp with friends, drink beer, fish and play a variety of water sports with our children; well It just didn’t seem right.
Unbeknownst to me early on the morning of our departure my wife after having a particularly hard night filled with rigors, 104 temp, vomiting, and excessive fluid buildup leading to a case of difficulty breathing had in fact only one thing on her mind. It had nothing to do with what was happening to her, on the contrary it had everything to do with me. That morning as we loaded up to leave, lump in my throat, with nervousness screaming aloud in an already crowded room known as my subconscious, my wife asked her doctor if she was going to die.
Jacy didn’t want to know if she was going to die for her own welfare, although she was terrified with so much pain and discomfort. No my wife asked by simply stating; I just told my husband to go camping with our children, to go meet friends and have a good time. He doesn’t want to, he feels the need to be here, with me. Doc am I going to die? Should he go? Her answer; I cannot tell you whether or not you are going to die, but what I can tell you is even though this is hard right now, you have all the positive signs of making it through; we can manage your symptoms you just need to stay focused. If I were to tell you anything it would be to let your husband know it’s ok to take your children camping. We are here and you are receiving the very best care. And with that my wife never said a word.
The weekend was perfect, every child did exactly what they wanted to do, be it tubing, wake boarding, or just plain old fishing with dad it was a sunny break after a long bleak storm. Every moment, around every corner of the campground I looked for my wife, I knew she wasn’t there, but it’s what occupied my mind. I answered all the curious questions and felt at home as we were surrounded by some of the most caring wonderful families. It was definitely a delight.
Saturday night I was feeling my emotions associated with this weekend were all figured out. You know as in; this was Jacys way of allowing me the ability to tell myself it was ok to have fun without her, to not worry or feel stressed if even for a short period of time. That my mind and body needed to quit worrying for a minute and just regroup so upon returning my abilities to remain strong for her and the kids would be renewed!
Then I met a Gary (name changed for privacy)
Standing by the band (yes this camping trip had a band, and they were good, really good), beer in hand, feeling pretty confident with my all-knowing sense of entitlement, Gary walked up and introduced himself.
You see Gary has a wife, Gary’s wife is a two time Leukemia survivor which included two Bone Marrow Transplants. Now I had a few, so I am not positive, but my recollection was the first round was actual bone marrow and her second round stem cells exactly like my wife. In great detail Gary discussed each and every day, the highs and the lower than lows. Side effects, sicknesses, water weight, seizures, the BMT wing at Stanford, we talked about it all like warriors likened to each other through battle. He talked with sincerity about a wife who was ten years free and clear when she didn’t feel right and she knew. About whether or not to go through with another BMT. About making the right decisions and struggling together through it all. Gary was a kind gentle man who spoke from the heart.
After we finished talking my head was swimming, how they mirrored many of the same issues my wife currently faced, how he struggled the way I am struggling now and reassured me with patience it would be ok. I left a little early, went and laid down, overwhelmed by it all.
The next day we hung around camp, fished off the dock and hung out with our friends. The boys/girls went tubing while Parker and I fished. In the middle of the day Gary was standing near me when a nice lady walked up to which Gary stated with a smile; there he is, you wanted to meet him? She looked confused for a second, then putting it all together stuck her hand out to shake mine and introduced herself as Sara (Name also changed for privacy), Gary’s wife.
Sara and I had a very nice talk about Bone Marrow Transplants and it was during this moment that a realization struck me right over the head. We weren’t only supposed to be here for the relaxation it afforded our children, the ability to unwind some of our stresses or allow my wife to feel as though she wasn’t impeding our children from enjoying their summer.
No, once again life had shown me how arrogant it was for me to think for a second that I had it all figured out.
You see God always has other plans.
We were there so I could meet this couple, hear their story and understand that it would be alright. It was going to be hard, there was no doubt to that fact. But in the end, it was going to be alright. We would survive this, she will survive this disease, this transplant. There would be plenty of dark days on the road to success, but to fully understand success comes at a price and through hard work, a life able to be lived was just over the horizon. This man’s wife was here, she survived twice to be with her husband and their children and now she was here helping me to survive as well.
When we left on Sunday, we all hugged and said our goodbyes, I didn’t get the chance to say goodbye to Gary and Sara, but they have been constantly in my thoughts ever since.
Don’t ever think you have life figured out for you would be wrong, God knows, and if you listen closely you just might hear what he has to say.
UPDATE: I wrote this Sunday night and something told me to wait. So I listened to that inner voice.
Monday was a hard day for me as I watched my wife suffering through almost thirty pounds of water gain, her face and lips swollen, her inability to speak because of lesions in her throat, almost in tears due to excruciating pain in her legs and knees with an inability to stand for more than a second without collapsing. There is or was nothing I could do, but hold her hand. She slept on and off, would hallucinate in the middle of a conversation with me, and constantly thrashed around uncomfortably with what looked to be an Alaskan pipeline of IV tubes going into her or drains coming out of her. But through it all she would smile, tell me she was happy I was there, and we would hold hands before she fell asleep again.
Tuesday-Today; another long hard night with a myriad of problems, at one point she sounded destitute, unable to handle her state of being. A few hours later she called and said she was feeling better, we talked for a while about my meeting this couple and she agreed it was all in God’s hands. A few hours later she called again and could speak fairly clearly. She said; the day was just looking a little better and we talked about the kids. Then this evening she called one more time. Her blood results came back and white cells are forming! She is engrafting! It is the first major step towards recovery! The nurses were also referring to her having the ability to become outpatient within a week or two!!! It was all too much for me to comprehend when she told me and I am afraid I may not have come across as excited enough, but all I can say is thank you God, thank you everyone, keep the prayers coming she will need them to get through this next week and we will all pray her new immune system likes its new home and continues work hard for our girl.
All things happen for a reason, I am fairly certain my attitude would have continued in despair if not for a chance meeting during a camping trip that I was certain I wasn’t supposed to be on.