0750 my gear has been placed on the engine, I am Acting Captain today and we have a shift filled with misfits as many are out on the fire line. The day feels good, my spirits are high, and we have a great group of guys working this morning!
This day is also an important one for many as we are selectively heading to city hall. Many have tested for an open Captains position and one by one we will head over to partake in the interview process. The interview process is the most important in this three stage testing procedure as its weight bears 50% of your overall score. I feel pretty good considering the weight upon my shoulders as of late. I enjoy the interview process more than the testing side because it gives each individual an opportunity to express themselves beyond a cut and dried, yes or no, pick A,B,or C type answer. It really does put everyone on an even playing field and with the wealth of incredible talent our small department holds it makes for an exciting 30 minutes in front of three of your peers.
0830 I am in the shower, Class A suit laid upon my bed, shoes shined, a quick shave and we will be on our way. My engine is staffed with two other awesome candidates so we are traveling together. Our second due is fully staffed and prepared to handle all calls as we work our way through the process. Of course this is a necessity for as I previously eluded 1/3 our department is currently out of county working the Rocky fire.
The phone rings, I am mid shave, they will call back. It rings again and keeps ringing; SHIT! This must be important, there’s something wrong with the kids is what comes to mind first! I am sure someone is fighting about having to take orders from one sibling or another, or someone doesn’t want to do chores! Wet and unable to see very well without my glasses, the outline of my wife’s picture is visible through the steam as it continues to ring! My heart races….. She never repeat calls me unless it is REALLY important. I answer the phone and tentatively say: hello?
A sound of desperation rolls into my ears through gasping breaths, sobbing and fear. “I don’t want to die, they are putting me on experimental drugs, I don’t want to die here! I want to come home now, can I please, please come home now, I cannot die here James; I can’t!!! I feel too good, I am walking, we go outside, why am I getting sicker? I don’t feel sicker? You can’t let me die here! I just really want to come home now! Please, can I please come home!!!!!
(Heavy, heavy sobbing)
I don’t know what to say. That is right, the man who has something to say about anything and everything to a point you just want to tell me to shut my damn mouth! Has nothing to say.
Tears fill my eyes.
After a few still moments my brain kicks into gear. I tell her I don’t know why this is happening, that she will win this battle, and that she is the strongest woman I know. (Hell truth be told she is also stronger than most men I know.)
She retorts with; I just don’t understand James, this isn’t fair!
And she is right. It is not fair, and I will never understand why this could happen to anyone, let alone a woman who has given so much too so many. I know our lives are not tallied up in a score allowing us some form of greater peace upon leaving this earth. But as one who believes in Karma, as one who believes we are all put on this earth for a reason, it makes absolutely no sense. No sense at all..
A few moments go by and she tells me she just needed to hear my voice, she needed to hear me tell her everything would be ok. She asks how my interview went to which I somberly reply; it is in a half an hour.
In hindsight, I should have lied and just told her it went fine.
It took a few minutes of calming her down after spiraling into what a bad wife she thought she was for calling and laying all that on me before an interview. I calmly told her not to worry, it would be alright and I would be there soon. She made me promise to go through with the interview. I was ready to leave. It was the hardest thing to promise her I would stay, but she made it very clear this interview was not just about me, but about our whole family. Twenty years happily given to my career, if an advancement were to come it’s not just my advancement, it is the entire families advancement as they too have sacrificed for all that time. Once she was calm and re-energized knowing my love and commitment to her, we hung up our phones.
Walking back towards my dorm was the longest mile. Everyone seated in the day room, some talking about the upcoming interviews others mentioning fires while some were partaking in a little busting of chops. I made no eye contact, prayed no one could see my swollen, red face and quietly I slipped into my room closing the door without so much as a squeak.
Sitting on my bed, I slowly raised up my wet towel, covered my face and screamed as loud as I could. Then I cried, and cried some more until it became sobbing.
Now I am no psychology genius, although you need to have a little ability in that arena when it comes to this job and dealing with the various personalities we encounter. But I am going to guess that sob was more than just a phone call. Fighting migraines daily brought on by all this stress over the last year and a half finally came to a head and in that moment. Undignified, snot filled, blubbering moment. Trying my hardest to get it under control before I was discovered was to no avail.
One of many wonderful, caring co-workers that surround me on a daily basis walked in, not because he heard something, but because we share a dorm room and the minute he saw me, he quietly closed the door, came over and without a word sat by my side, put his arm around me and just hugged me. It brings tears to my eyes writing this because in a moment when some would try to do so much more, he knew more was not what I needed. What I needed was hug. A simple human response, showing you care enough about someone to let them go through what they are going through but with the silent strength of support in the form of a simple hug.
I pulled myself together, got dressed and went to my interview. Before walking inside I took a deep breath and tried my very hardest under the circumstances. It was all a blur as before I knew it, the boys had covered my spot on the engine and off to Stanford I went.
Jacy was never happier than the moment I walked through her hospital room door! She couldn’t see me, but once I said; Hi honey, she smiled that beautiful smile and there I stayed, by her side until late in the evening.
To understand without question the lord has a plan for you may be a hard pill to swallow at times. You are not supposed know why things are the way they are, but determine what the message is and how you can learn, grow and provide to others from what you have experienced. Good, bad or otherwise it is a journey designed for you and you alone.
I am not happy about this road we are currently on, I never will be, but I do know when this is over we will have one of hell of a story to share with others and maybe that is the point.
Jacys current status: Jacy currently has GVHD in her abdomen which is exactly where you don’t want it to take hold. What that means is as her new cells are battling to find a foot hold in her body they have a tendency to destroy things, such as tissue, muscle, linings etc.. This is why the first sign of GVHD is a rash. Jacy’s rash covers her entire body. It eventually blisters with dead skin cells, sloughs away leaving new baby like skin behind. (Stars pay thousands for a treatment to give them new baby skin) What you hope for is this is as far as it goes and that you develop chronic GVHD, where a rash or a form of shingles only re-appears every now and again. Jacy has developed acute GVHD, which is life threatening; although treatable it is fully dependent upon her body’s ability to interact with a variety of drugs to counteract the GVHD. None have worked and she has reached the limits for steriods. She weighs around 129 pounds, her legs are the size of my biceps, she can barely see as the underside of her eyelids are sloughing away leaving her eyes swollen and blurred. She still has a full body rash and of course her abdomen is now affecting leaving her with uncontrollable diarrhea. The fear with it in her abdomen is the cells are attacking her intestines which doesn’t allow for her to process food. What this mean is no matter how much she is craving a cheeseburger she must be on a liquid diet because her body cannot digest the solid food appropriately. Even on a liquid diet her body is using way more calories than it is able to obtain, leading to anorexia and possible kidney failure.
We are in a last ditch effort to turn things around by placing her on experimental drugs hoping to reverse these effects before it is too late. The experimental drug they are prescribing is Ruxolitinb or Jakafi. Look it up it is an interesting read.
This morning she feels great! The diarrhea has stalled as she didn’t need to go all night. That is a good sign! She is fighting with every fiber of her body as only she knows how and told me two weeks! Two weeks is her goal to get to her dads hell or high water! She believes the new drug will work, putting an end to all this nonsense! There is definitely something to be said about a continued positive attitude.
Many will say I am giving away too much information, that there should be more privacy when it comes to this matter. But the reason I share all of this is not just so our friends, family and extended family (which is what I consider every single person who is praying along with us to be) can be informed, but to put a realistic face on Leukemia. Not just the success stories and depressing losses but what is actually happening in between to everyone involved! It is a dreadful disease that hurts family after family and without knowledge along with sharing our experiences we will never grow to help others living through the very same hell.
To everyone who is assisting our family in some form or another. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.
To everyone who is praying for our family; may God bless you all!