One year-365 days
The day before yesterday I awoke to my phone buzzing incessantly on my leg. I had traveled back to the firehouse for an emergency recall as emergency units were fighting a stubborn structure fire and additional manpower was needed for daily operations. After changing into my uniform, checking the operations board, determining who went where and why. A moment came where I dropped into a chair to catch a minute while enjoying the air-conditioning. It is the last thing I remember. That is until my phone started buzzing upon my leg.
Answering it, my wife started talking and I quickly realized I had no idea what she was saying. Not only did I have no idea what she was saying but I didn’t know where I was, who I was, or why I was sitting in a chair inside the firehouse. I panicked and thought shit something is wrong, why is she calling? She is at the hospital what has happened? Is it bad news? Is she ok and once again, HOW THE HELL DID I END UP AT WORK!!! Had I been there for a couple a days? Was this my shift? CRAP!!! I was lost..
The entire time my inner self is freaking the hell out, my wife is simply asking me when I am coming home for dinner? When I didn’t answer she would simply ask me again.
This morning when I awoke to head off to work, I awoke alone. Seeing no one there, I panicked for a second, took a breath, cleared my eyes then remembered as I have reminded myself on multiple occasions she wasn’t in the hospital. Odds are she is probably downstairs in her recliner after another long, horrible, sleepless night filled with coughing and pain. Instead watching Netflix with her headset on, and most likely snuggled up in a blanket trying her best to let me sleep.
A year ago Jacy received a bone marrow transplant. Today, according to BMT lore is her new birthday. A new birthday is given to every transplant patient upon receiving their transplant. This transplant saved her life. We are, and will be forever grateful for such a generous, selfless gift given without hesitation by a person we have never met. Modern medicine is amazing and I find myself in awe at what these treatments have afforded our family.
But it has not come without a cost.
I wake up disoriented and confused all the time! Exhaustion is a standard of living for me. I can’t fall asleep until after midnight. I fill my time doing laundry, cleaning house or simply watching television while she lays beside me. But even then I am watching carefully, listening to her breathe, judging her every movement. I do my best by allowing her the freedom to make decisions on her own in regards to her day, energy exertion and tasks she wishes to complete on her own. Never overstepping my bounds but asserting myself when I think she may have done too much or is planning to take on more than she can handle. Of course who am I to say what she can, or can’t handle? This is Jacy after all and she is going to tell me what she can or cannot do. Then when things don’t go as planned I just smile a sly smile and without saying; “I told you so”, help her get to where she needs to be. Most of my days are spent working outside for a while, then coming inside to make sure she is surviving and comfortable; certainly being inside also has to do with the current heat spell we are experiencing; trying my best to get the hard stuff done before it becomes too hot. In the morning I generally awaken at first light, toss and turn, trying to sleep just a little longer which may or may not get me to 0630. Then its coffee with the wife and my day begins.
It is as though w have Bone Marrow Transplant PTSD. I panic at anything in regards to her health, position, status, whereabouts, etc.. It is hard to love someone with all your heart, be their caregiver, take care of children, work, run a household and ranch all while trying to remember it is all going to be ok and you should probably take a moment or two for yourself.
The phone calls, updates, a year of hearing it’s all going to be fine then 5 days later you are signing DNR paperwork. The next weeks prognosis is good, but a few days later she is back in ICU. She is going to live, she is going to die. She is a miracle from GOD, she praying to GOD. She is kissing her children, she is praying for one more day with them. Doctors patting you on the back and smiling. Doctors patting you on the back while they sit you down to explain some very serious complications. The amazing amount of time you have, alone in your car, traveling 2-3 hours one way, hoping to spend more than a couple hours with her awake, knowing it is not her fault as heavy medication kept her from any form of alertness.
For a year I have watched the very same medications saving her life wither her body away to nothing. Taking away muscle and tone she worked so hard for so long to achieve. Leaving skin and bone in its aftermath, tearing away at her self-esteem. I have watched as hair has fallen off, skin has flaked away leaving lesions, blotching and discoloration covering her body. I have held her as impaired vision causes her pain, balance issues and nausea.
She cries a little each time we go back to Stanford, afraid some nurse or doctor will admit her. She lives in constant fear that if she does get sick she is doomed. She has mini panic attacks when calling her doctor or making an appointment for the same reasons. The slightest sniffle or cough leads to worry as a fever or discolored sputum brings doubt as to her overall health.
A year has gone by and our children are no longer the same. Learning about life and hardship, struggle, pain, sickness and survival. They will never look at a hospital or doctor’s office the same way again. Our youngest feels that if you go to a hospital the odds of coming home right away are very slim. They no longer know the mother who rode horses, or played sports, gardened and ran the perimeter of our property. No a year has gone and with it all expectations of normalcy.
But I am not writing this to be a downer, because although it has been an extremely difficult year and continues to bring struggles to our family, it has also been of year of immense growth.
365 days of love, caring and a town that never quit supporting our family. Never did I have to worry about whether my children would have a meal, or a place to go hang out, friends to play with, or a parent to help them. My oldest learned what it meant to be a BIG brother. Not just their brother, but one who cares for them, keeps them safe and ensures they stick to their schedule. We are pretty sure they also ruined him for ever having children.
Those children who can’t play soccer, go camping or ride horses and bicycles with their mom anymore have instead learned the importance in taking care of another human being. They have also through helpful guidance from myself and their older brother (as mentioned above) learned how to take care of themselves. Has it been perfect? NO! Have they all made mistakes, some larger than others? YES! Have I screwed up numerous times trying my best to parent from afar while at Stanford? HELL YES! But after this bout of family struggle in their lives I have no doubt our children will grow into fine adults who will undoubtedly help others along the way. Something (compassion) a parent wishes for from the time their children are born. Do our children want things to be the way they were before? YEP, but they also know we cannot go backwards and though it has been challenging they are ready for whatever lays ahead happy with the knowledge mom survived and mom is home.
Those medications her and I despise are keeping her alive and with each day comes another opportunity to interact with not only her family, her children, but her friends as well. She still feels as though there is work here on this planet for her to do and although each day taking 23 medications three times a day is a struggle. It is a struggle worth the price. I remember her saying one time that if GOD would grant her the ability to survive she would be content just watching her children grow from the comfort of her easy chair. We all know that isn’t enough for our Jacy and it really doesn’t matter what those medications have done to her outer appearance. The inside is still the magnanimous, charismatic, hilarious, moody, determined, intelligent, caring, loving, the woman we all know. That my friends is all that matters. A teacher once asked me; what will you do when your looks are gone? I can say without a doubt that if we have the love of family, friends and most of all ourselves. Then looks never really mattered anyways did they?
As far as constantly being exhausted, worrying about everything from my wife, to our ranch, long term finances, our children’s welfare, work and beyond? It has been a reality check, and a very long exhausting two years. From first being diagnosed with Leukemia to her having the Bone Marrow Transplant. I am tired, so very tired, I am overweight and I don’t feel all that great, my inner confidence is waning and some days I feel as though I am drowning. But I also know this is exactly where I am supposed to be. I married an incredible woman, God gave me a second chance at life by introducing us. It is within our nature as human beings to complain and as much as I despise complaining I have done it a time or two, or three, ok maybe half a dozen, yet I wouldn’t trade anything. From the moment we met we both knew we were meant to be together. We both heard and felt a higher power formulating a plan while drawing us together. When we married, she began working to make me a better person, not because she had to, but because you just naturally become one once you are around her. Trust me, I didn’t always like it, we sometimes fought over it as I raged against change. But without her, I am not sure I would be who I am today and for that I am thankful and she deserves all the love and devotion I have to give. So a little exhaustion is fine, some residual hospital PTSD is ok and at some point I am sure I will stop feeling exhausted or falling asleep the moment my body quits moving.
But in the end, as tired as I am, through all the hell our family has been through, thanks to God, great friends and family along with Jacy’s incredible will power, she is still here on her new birthday, and for that I will be forever grateful.