You can never forget you!

Today I went fishing.

There are three things in this world that I love participating in more than anything else.

  1. Riding/working horses
  2. Fishing
  3. Riding a motorcycle (any motorcycle)

Peaceful water cracking against the hull, birds of every variety flying overhead, some even landing near our boat. Seals breaking the surface to say hello and cattle off in the distance grazing quietly. Sitting silently with two lines in the water my eyes dart back and forth between the fish finder as I monitor the water temperature and the picturesque surroundings on what had to be one of the most perfect mild temperature, no wind kind of days. The only thing that would have made it even better? A bigger boat so I could duck inside and take a nap! Ha!!! Old guy perfection right there baby!!!

So why is this so important and why would you the reader care?

The other day while speaking to someone the topic arose as it usually does in regards to personal, family oriented, doctor/cancer related struggles that life had become unmanageable. We all have struggles in our lives, some more serious than others and even that severity can be tempered through one’s own personal perception.

We commiserated over many of the same issues in regards to holding things together when all seems lost or hopelessness abounds and as I switched from a willing partner in the gripe arena to sound listener I could not help but forward some very sage advice after asking if any advice offered would be received. (I mean I DO have a little experience in this arena) Thankfully the answer was yes.

I reminded this person that as life is crashing around and people are no longer meeting your expectations you may need a break. As the hill gets harder to climb and you find yourself crying more than laughing your brain is saying enough. When the only thing you care about is the immediate and everything else can just go to hell it is time for an intervention. So what must this person do to quench the fires as it were? You must remember exactly who you are, don’t ever forget WHO YOU ARE! It is time for you to do something for you!

Take time to find that one thing (or three) that reminds you that you are you! I guarantee that stress combined with an overachiever mentality and over time you will forget who you are! Overwhelmed by the many tasks that lay before you on a daily basis you eventually end up putting little old tired you in the closet while hiding behind this public persona superhero cape! It really beats you up no matter what, but if you’re the type that’s not a quitter in any way, shape or form the weight upon you is enormous! So do what you have to do, but find that thing that makes you, you!

You were somebody before you got married! You were hopefully somebody you even liked and enjoyed hanging out with before life came crashing down! I know in the beginning you are going to feel guilty, but tough shit!!! In time that guilt fades, you begin to balance back out and when the world is spinning out of control you have the fortitude to handle it!

For me it was an accidental stop at a local eatery in town for breakfast on one of those “spinning out of control” days. I felt guilty walking through the door, I felt guilty spending money on myself for breakfast, I felt guilty because I needed to leave for Stanford, and after I sat down, alone, I felt guilty that my wife wasn’t with me, and that I was eating out without her!

But you know what else happened?

I felt better after the first cup of coffee that I didn’t have to make. The waitress was kind and could see I needed to be alone. I turned off my phone and watched the news in the bar next to my booth. I ordered what I wanted (yeah cholesterol be damned) and ate it slowly, with a smile. It was 40 minutes out of what turned into a nightmarishly insane day and it was worth all 2,400 seconds. I walked out, sat in my car and realized I had forgotten who I was.

After that day I made a point to remember to ride a horse, go fishing with or without kids, and ride a motorcycle.

You see without knowing who I was, how on earth could I be anything to anyone else? I could try, but instead of success I was merely adding more to an overflowing plate. If I spend time at any one of those three things, from a few hours to a day or two, there is nothing I cannot handle when I come back. I know who I am, my feet are firmly on the ground and I have said; its ok to give myself a timeout now let’s tackle the world.

So today a fishing trip turned into a recollection which turned into a blog post which turned into me being able to put my head down tonight, get a good night’s sleep so that tomorrow I can wake up, smile, put my feet on the floor and tell the world it’s ok, you can throw what you want at me again.

I’m ready.

On a side note, you don’t have to be struggling mentally, physically or living through some personal hell to remember to take care of yourself. Life is hard, and for some reason we make it harder for ourselves by forgetting the only person who can help us navigate our very short time on this earth.

That person is you! Make the change, then when the hard times do come you are miles ahead of where I was in November of 2013 when our world came crashing down.

~Betty~

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Is it just a party??

Rolling down this dirt path carved into a country landscape from many years of vehicular abuse, these almost gypsy like heathens moved like a battle hardened caravan having just crossed nature’s own brutal convection oven labeled the Sahara. One by one their vehicles of choice came to ease and were hastily placed into park. Dust, once billowing behind now came to settle as they spilled like sullied cargo from within these sheet metal four wheeled coffins. Wiping their eyes and straightening the linens draped upon their weary bones, eye contact was made with their hosts and those who had previously arrived. These weariest of travelers sighed a heavy sigh with shoulders slumped while large grins appeared upon their faces. Slowly stepping forward towards these friendly smiles warmly becoming one because they were with family; they were finally home.

AND THE NOBEL PRIZE FOR LITERATURE GOES TOO????? BETTY!!!!!!!

(Thunderous applause, cheering can be heard for miles)

This weekend we did something that hasn’t happened in a very long time here on our ranch.

WE HAD A FAMILY PARTY!!!!!

That’s right, my wife wanted so badly to get her side of the family together and to feel normal, even if just for a few hours.

Before Jacy got sick, it was not uncommon for us to throw multiple summer shin digs out here on the ranch. Beer, BBQ and good times! Life is short and spending time with family and great people is of the utmost priority because as we all know, it can be over in a minute.

So, one by one they came, by car, by motorhome, by four wheel drive. Some were family we see on a fairly regular basis, some came from the east coast, some came from the north, some we hadn’t seen in a very long time and some I had personally never met.

I used to LOVE throwing a party, I would spend days preparing the meat, Jacy would spend days preparing the house and making all the side dishes. We would dress up the place, throw down some lights, set up the music and wait, much like kids on Christmas morning for people to arrive.

But I cannot tell a lie, that feeling has been gone for quite some time. It just hasn’t been in me, I really don’t want to socialize most days, I don’t want any extra work load put on my plate, and I don’t want to plan anything for every time I open my calendar the schedule is completely full.

I dream of running away all the time. No place in particular, in my mind it’s just a quiet place of solitude with no responsibilities at all. It’s a weird feeling really, this place you go to in your mind when as the sole everything to your family you should remain steadfast and not let imaginary substance take hold. You feel guilty for mentally giving up at times. Yet it’s hard when you live with the constant fear of always forgetting something important, never doing any one thing good enough, and worrying every time you leave the house that something is going to happen to your wife. (That feeling really sucks when I go to work 48 hours at a time)

Well something did happen to my wife, and myself too.

She smiled.

Surrounded by a portion (all of our friends and family weren’t able to attend) of those she loves, for a full day while jokes flew, stories were told, and laughter reigned king my wife was able to forget four years of suffering and pain. My wife was able to believe her life was and could be normal. My wife who gives more of herself to anyone and I mean ANYONE who would ever ask or even look as though they needed her assistance. Felt as though her life was whole again.

Since Saturday came and went, she hasn’t quit smiling. Oh she was exhausted Sunday night after all had gone home and quiet settled upon our little ranch house. Today is Monday and for the most part for her is has been spent in bed.

Last night, I swear when I came to bed amongst the hum of her oxygen machine, through the glow of the security lights she has surrounding our bed, my wife, my little tiny, half blind, frail, sweet wife, was still smiling.

For me, it reminded me about the importance of family and great friends. It reminded me that even though things seem difficult at times, if I really wanted to hit the ole pity party streets within minutes I could find others who have it way harder than myself. It reminded me this is a journey and no matter the outcome I need to always embrace the journey for when my journey is over, well it’s over.

So why not fill that journey with incredible moments, experiences that will never be forgotten, surrounded by people you love, who love you right back?

Sure today we are right back into the grind of things, but I’m still smiling from a great couple of days that took a little work to make happen and the work was so worth it. My wife is still smiling from the opportunity to not only still be here on this planet but also being surrounded by the ones she loves. Our children are still laughing at all the fun they had with their cousins, nephews and friends. And I’m pretty sure each and every family member or friend who stepped foot on our ranch Saturday afternoon is in some small way still smiling too.

That itself says it all.

So smile a little smile, tell the ones you love, that you love them, put away the politics, the news, the electronic i-device of slavery and get everyone together for some good food, a few drinks, lots of laughter and memories that last a lifetime.

It is so worth it.

And now and ending worthy of literature greatness.

Blitz laid quietly amongst the empty tables and chairs, belly warmed by the earth beneath his fur. His head hung heavy upon his front feet as Jacy slowly stroking his ears mumbled aloud; it sure is quiet now isn’t it buddy?

He groaned, took a deep breath and sighed again. The breeze was warm upon her back as she gazed upon a now lonesome backyard that only a few hours ago was brimming with energy and love. Smiling as a tear rolled gently down her cheek the salty droplet landing adjacent to her lip. A day, a single day she swore would never come, a moment of time her brain told her she would never take part in again, the thought of all those days trapped within the bustling walls of Stanford hospital flooding every pore of her body. Shaking, feeling numb as memories of pain and despair, sleepless nights and the thought she would never, ever come home rears its ugly head. She looks down at Blitz and mumbles; I proved them all wrong didn’t I buddy? One by one she proved every one of them wrong and survived what had previously been deemed un-survivable.

Now, face turned towards the property, a thousand yard stare firmly affixed she sees nothing of the landscape before her and as the sounds of the last vehicle fade into the distance she smiles. Not because these traveling familia nomads are all gone. Not because quiet has befallen her world once again, and not because she can finally rest. No she smiles because in true Jacy style, she did it all her way and was able to once again surround herself with love.

Ok so maybe not literary genius. Readers Digest?

 

 

 

 

An Incredible Journey

I am on an incredible journey and I don’t know why.

Why was I chosen to walk this path filled with so many unexpected surprises? Why do I struggle with the same challenges day after day, feeling as if there is no reprieve? Why I am even allowed a new morning when others for who I look up to, revere or admire are facing their last days or have simply vanished, passing from their earthly constraints.

Every day I awaken, place my feet firmly upon the floor and stand up. I then make a conscious decision. Do I carry on, or give up? Do I meet the day’s challenges or pull the sheets over my head and cry foul? Do I continue to regress emotionally or do I say fuck this, square up my shoulders then throw a middle finger towards an overwhelming temptation to just quit?

Lately it has definitely been the latter. I’ve been putting on a good face while struggling to get out of bed then smiling the smile, telling the same old jokes, letting the actions or words of some bring me down and basically feeling as though I should be giving up. I am not happy, not happy in one little bit.

The darkness has crept in and I haven’t seen any light for quite some time. Between the duties of caregiver to my wife, caregiver to the public and struggling to remain a vigilant father while my children struggle with their own feelings for which they have no knowledge or control over in regards to our current situation. I have slowly faded away. Not all at once, but little bits at a time.

It feels like constant darkness in my head, every moment of every day and there has been nothing I can do about it.

So you begin to ask; if there is so much darkness why do you proclaim this an incredible journey?

Because like it or not, hate it or love it, detest its existence or clamor for more, it is an incredible journey!

As human beings it is our job to grow and share. It is not a right, you are not rightfully given another day on this earth. You have no right to prosperity and wealth, you have no right to a job, a house, a marriage, a life of any kind. You have to earn it!! Then grow and share through the process!

That’s right, I know this may come as a shocker to some, but your life is earned. What you have accomplished by the time your final day comes (and it comes for us all) is 100% purely up to you!

My grandmother came to me in a dream last night. (Don’t get all; holy shit he’s gone off the deep end) Although I know dreams are a conglomeration of memories, subconscious thoughts, neural transmissions and blah, blah, blah. It was exactly what I needed at just the right time.

My grandmother on my mother’s side was a very interesting woman. She graduated from Stanford during a time when women were considered less than men. She dated a few notable individuals of the time. She made her own way through life when in her forties her husband, my grandfather died of a heart attack. She had a very successful career in finance when women were considered nothing more than secretaries and used her skills to set an example. She traveled the world going where she wanted when she wanted with nothing holding her back!

As a child I vaguely remember her stories about life, travel and the many lessons she put before me. Whenever we visited she used buttons to teach us about money, plants in her greenhouse to teach us about life, books to teach us about literature and conversation to teach us about the human equation. I woke up this morning wishing I was 8 again so I could hug her and listen more intently.

She wrote a book about her life. I have it on a shelf. I have read twice and when I awoke this morning it dawned on me that I may need to read it again. I need that emotional connection, to relearn what it means to be me, throwing caution to the wind, standing up for and protecting my ethics, beliefs and way of life no matter what anyone else says because my life is mine. To help stay on track, for in my heart I still believe that we all learn from one another’s triumphs and mistakes. During this crazy time where our socializations seems to only focus on a small device that spews nothing more than negativity an hate tearing the very fabric of this country. Maybe one small voice, writing about his struggles in an obscure seldom read blog could remind us there is a positive, no matter the circumstances and that choice would mine to make. No one could take it away.

My current situation has a myriad of balls all up in the air, a juggler’s nightmare as gravity brings them towards me at a dizzying pace! It constantly comes up in conversation when people say; I don’t know how you do it, in regards to the struggle associated with raising four children, working as a firefighter while caring for my wife with stage four Graf vs Host disease. Watching as she withers away, gets strong then withers away again. Is frustrated with the fact she is going blind yet bravely and with great fortitude works her way through daily activities for which she refuses to give up on. She is strong, brave and amazing.

It (the how do you do it comment) is a simple enough statement, it is never meant with any disingenuous undertone, and my response is usually almost always; it is what it is. I say that as to not offend anyone or hurt their feelings. But my real thought is; how could I not! This is my life, my family, my wife, what the hell else am I supposed to do?

I realize we live in a decaying society where it is easier to point a finger, post it on Facebook, complain publicly, give up and run away than it is to stay behind and fight for the ones you love! Fight for the life and family you have created! To me that is a sad moniker of what our lives in this country have boiled down too. If the going gets tough-make a spectacle then QUIT!

There are those that wonder why I write so openly about my personal life and if it affects anyone close to me.

Yes it does affect those close to me, but I have always felt deep inside it was my obligation to share everything. Why? Because I have yet to see one writing that adequately covers or assists the multitude of struggles and emotions I am feeling. Everything ever written in regards to being the spouse of a Leukemia/Bone Marrow Transplant survivor is generic! Nothing even remotely touches the many facets of life this horrible disease along with recovery post-transplant throws in your face. It is all glossed over as to not scare you. Well guess fucking what? Life is a scary thing, now throw in all the new challenges associated with a wife whose body is trying to kill her and well you better sack up and learn from someone who has walked the path! Stay firmly away from those who wallow in a dream world where after treatment life just carries on as if nothing ever happened!!! Which is where I think I come in, for those who want the truth and seek it through my writings.

So then I wonder do people think my attitude comes naturally. My ability to cope? To understand and carry on?

Because it takes work, patience and the ability to listen, not pass judgement when you can and keep an open mind. It takes and incredible amount of faith and that faith is tested, over and over and over again! This journey I am on reinforces all those things on a daily basis!

So then my mind digs deeper into that simple question of “how do I do it” and I wonder some more. Do people believe that being a firefighter comes naturally? That we are all born with some obscure kryptonite type gene that predisposes us to the atrocities of the human condition? You see, firefighting, that is the easy part! It always has been and always will be. You still need to understand basic chemistry and have a few years’ experience using those skills to know exactly when and where placing the right amount of water at the right time will put out the fire while saving lives and property. This professions education is real, the long hours studying and keeping those skills are mind numbing. As a firefighter you need to become proficient at a little bit of everything. Building construction, demolition expert, code compliance, hazardous materials, chemist, investigator, auto mechanic, auto technician, computer genius, locksmith, heating and air technician, heavy equipment operator, financial advisor, ER doctor, supervisor, pastor, councilor and truck driver. If you added up the salaries of all those things each member would be worth over a million a year and we can go into the private section with our degrees and make three times what we struggle to earn in our jobs, but that’s not why we do it. It is an overwhelming need to help people. But as if that load of constant learning wasn’t enough, and as I said, fighting fires using all that education is in fact the easy part, you know what the real struggle is? The thing that keeps us up at night, the thing that not one mother fucker prepares you for that haunts your very soul when you lay your head down on that pillow?

It is the endless onslaught of death that we must deal with on a regular basis. Dancing in our heads like ghosts from Christmas past. Dealing with them any way we can, through counseling, good friends and time away from the big green fire engines. It is also coming back the station and reading in the local paper that our city council doesn’t support us in the least. Or we are attacked by the public because we go as an engine company to the store to purchase our supplies which we pay for from our own pockets or that our retirement is some magical golden egg that is draining the state’s coffers when we pay an ungodly amount of money per month out of our own pockets to fund it. Its understanding and coming to terms with the fact we are not funded in social security therefore we only receive from social security what we put in prior to joining the fire department. But hey none of that matters as we lay our heads down at night, trying to erase all those horrible images while also knowing we are unsupported you know why? Because most of us won’t live past 60! It is a statistical fact we will all contract some form of cancer from all the chemicals and carcinogens we have absorbed or inhaled throughout the years! But no worries we’ll just keep pushing it all down deep inside so it doesn’t show when we get home! That way our families and spouses won’t see or feel our pain, so they can have that great husband or father home for few days all happy and cheery like normal families!! Right? Right?

Why do we do it? Why do we keep coming back for more? Because we wish nothing more than to make that one save, that one moment in life where a positive impact on another human beings life has been made. So despite being treated like shit by our public officials, living with our deepest emotions, we can rest easy knowing another is alive, enjoying their family because of the sacrifices we willingly made. Fulfilling our own prophecy through hard work and dedication. Bringing life full circle.

This journey has allowed me to witness my wife fight for her life while I hold her hand, struggle as she struggles and rejoice as she rejoices. We don’t always agree on the topic of rejoicing but through this journey I have learned the importance of shutting my mouth while allowing my spouse to find the joy she needs over little accomplishments. I have learned to keep my mouth shut as she sheds tears, relinquishing my need to fix things. For there is nothing I can fix and only a shoulder to cry upon or an ear to yell into is needed at that moment in time. I have found understanding I never knew I had as unwarranted venom flows from her mouth one minute and angel’s wings sprout lifting her high over her pain another. I hug her when she needs to be hugged and leave her be when she wants nothing more than her headphones and a television show she has seen 100 times so she can listen to it as her eyes will no longer allow her to watch.

This journey has taken a toll on my life and although as of late I have been angry over its direction, angry at the life we now lead, angry at myself for being so very fucking angry inside!! ALL THE DAMN TIME!! It is still my journey, I am writing (quite literally) my own story. It is up to me how it ends.

At the end of the day, when my time has come, I want my children to look back and not remember the struggle. But remember their father handled it all, with strength, grace, positivity, faith and a plan. Ok let’s face it a few good old fashioned Irish/Italian hot headed fuck you fest temper tantrums as well. Then I want them to be able to go to a bookshelf, pull out a well written book, open the pages and read the story of my life, their lives, and the lives of those who loved them unconditionally. I want them to ride along in this journey page by page and remember the way I remember my grandmother.

Does labeling this shit storm we live in a fantastic journey mean I will become more positive? No, it means I know who I am and what I need to do.

Will my mood cease to be down and at times dark? No, I am human and with that naturally comes forms of negativity. It is life.

The blog has been dark as of late because I have been struggling with so many emotions tearing me up inside. I am sorry I haven’t been able to share for those who reach out to me on a regular basis. Time to light it up again, hit that keyboards and continue along with this fantastic journey.

God help me…

 

 

 

 

2017 a story not yet written.

The easy way out is to sit and complain, feel sorry for yourself or constantly wonder why? I have never liked the phrase “It is what it is” and yet for some strange reason it seems to be flowing from my mouth more than ever lately. As though my repertoire of emotion driven responses has taken a thoughtless vacation. In reality I have allowed myself to quit, therefore to find conversation worth having has lost its drive, its zest, leaving no creative or emotional yield.

Our family has started the year out with continuing troubles. It is beginning to feel as though each year meets us with a newer version of this show we call our life. A downcast tragedy written and directed by who?

Our lives are a journey, we are never guaranteed safe passage through it all and though it would be easy to complain or blame God (trust me I have done my fair share of why me? And what the fuck!!) In the end it is up to me not God to make a difference. To cry towards the sky with a shaken fist screaming at a creator or heavenly being leaves only the foolish exhausted and hoarse. God (depending on what you believe) may have created you, but you and you alone need to be able to hear the voice when it calls to you. To open your eyes and your heart, to remove the blinders and stigmas that come with the drudgery of day to day living before you can make an appropriate decision or change with your life.

The reality of it all is we (my family) are nothing special in the grand scheme of things. We (my family) and our troubles are but a spec amongst the hundreds of thousands living with troubles/struggles of their own. What makes our struggles any different from those struggling around us? What I do believe is how we handle our situation in particular may lead to another feeling hope while they wallow in the despair of their own personal pool of troubles. Sharing, compassion, and the ability to constantly learn, change and grow is what makes us unique as human beings.

I often find myself thankful for the social media platforms we all enjoy. I believe it helps us all to find, create, share and understand much more than we ever could prior to living within our own social boxes or narrow geographical boundaries.

On one hand I believe much of our perceived troubles come from looking at others who consistently post online what appears to be a perfect life. If we don’t feel our lives are up to snuff we tend to live through others and that can lead to feelings of resentment or envy that we may not have the ability to recognize. And yet we also see others who are struggling with every aspect of life so we tend to either selfishly feel a little better about ourselves, or we become distraught with those troubles igniting our inner compassionate drive thus feeling an overwhelming need to help. Another amazing human trait that could easily be lost within the alternate reality world surrounding us. Although social media often times comes across to me as the biggest reality show on the planet (and I hate reality shows for there is nothing “real” about them) it is a mind boggling creation to say the least.

Where Social media becomes a place of hope from the heavens is during days like today. One blurb, a sentence or quip and Social media becomes what it was initially intended, a place of connection for everyone you care about to come together. Words of encouragement flow like rivers to the sea. When someone is in trouble, within seconds there is another there to help. When a message needs to be heard by the masses this electronic medium becomes the town crier! It has become a community without terra firma.

 

So thanks to this wonderful world of connectivity, 2017 has not started out as bad as one would think. We are here, we are all alive! Encouragement and love flow freely through texts, blurbs, snaps, postings, phone calls and the shared written word. I say take whatever life has thrown at you and find a way! There is always a way. No person should ever feel the world or deck is stacked against them solely. It is your life, you and you alone make the decisions on how you are going to handle the curveballs life can and will throw your way. I may not like what is happening right now, I may feel frustration over how our life is going and what is happening within the confines of my little niche in the world, it may pain me to see the woman I love and our children suffering through what is essentially a not fair situation. But there is always something to be learned, a message to be shared, a heart to be touched, a moment of never ending love to be cast upon those involved.

We will get through it all, journey be damned.

Jacy is still at Stanford and will be there for an as yet undetermined period of time. She has a pretty bad case of pneumonia along with Rhinovirus (a cold). Now a cold is not so bad except Jacy has an extremely compromised immune system which can lead to very serious complications if she becomes infected.

For a few months now, Jacy’s heartrate and ability to breathe have become a huge concern for us. She can’t make it from the bed to the bathroom without a heart rate of 160, and her oxygen saturation levels dropping into the high 70’s, low 80’s even with oxygen on at 4 liters per minute. She ends up winded and exhausted by simply moving 20 feet. It has left her demoralized and feeling defeated.

The other morning as Jacy was having trouble controlling her heartrate and breathing, and the world became rapidly smaller she felt as though she was going to die. It was painful and it was scary. There was no feeling of bliss or relaxation coming over her and in that moment as the lights were growing dim she realized this was not the way she wanted to go. She was choosing for herself, fighting for her right to pick where and when!

Yesterday in the hospital still sad that she missed out on Parkers birthday she vowed to fight even harder. This thing, this GvHD will not win! There is way too much at stake and no one is going to tell her how it is going to be!

So today she sleeps, today I quit whining about how tired I feel, today we relish in the endless love shown us by friends and family through phone calls, texts and the almighty social media! Today we look forward to what tomorrow has to bring.

Tomorrow isn’t written yet and what we do with it determines how this story goes….

 

 

 

 

Jacy Update; One year later.

She walked down the hallway to a thunderous applause. Smiles, cheers, and hugs were the benchmark set for the morning. As always she made it (strolling down the hallway) look effortless and few would know she was doing her very best to simply stay upright. She had made it, she had survived when many felt she wouldn’t. She outwitted, outlasted and outplayed what was initially supposed to be at the very most a 4 month stay. It was almost 8 months instead. She had become a survivor.

That lone walk one year ago down a Stanford hallway, headed towards an exit was five minutes of pure bliss.

Fast forward one year.

Today marks the one year anniversary of my wife walking unassisted through the hallways of Stanford Medical Center to an awaiting car. She came home on that day and sobbed uncontrollably upon crossing through our gate onto the ranch. Her eyes cast upon land she felt she would never see again. It was a miracle and my faith had grown stronger.

Over the last year;

We have been to the Emergency room more times than I can count and it hasn’t gotten any easier. Even though no matter what hospital or emergency room someone remembers Jacy and we are always treated like family. But each time her body dictates we head that direction it feels like a giant step backwards and of course the inevitable panic attack associated with walking through those doors ensues! Fear solidly grips her mind as the thought of never coming back out is always present.

She goes to Stanford every two weeks for three to four days of treatment for her GvHD. It is a struggle, it rips at the fabric that is our family and we are very blessed to have continued help through immediate family and friends. We knew this wasn’t going to be an easy journey but wow, what a journey it has become!

I have become well versed on all medications associated with GvHD (Graft versus Host Disease) their indications and contraindications and with this knowledge my professional skills have been sharpened; specifically in the arena of assisting, acknowledging, and caring for any patient who has or has had Leukemia or cancer.

Our faith has been tested. We are constantly wondering what the bigger picture is here, what the “big” plan is supposed to hold and if we will ever receive a clue as to what is the answer. We wait patiently, trying our very best to understand, crying together, praying together, wondering about what the future holds-together. We feel robbed, she feels robbed of a life that once was so active and brisk. We both feel admiration and jealously as we watch other families, couples and dear friends moving on with their lives, posting pictures of holiday weekends, trips to Disneyland, camping and nighttime outings. It brings about feelings of remorse over time wasted, projects never tackled, feelings never shared, opportunities missed. All while a clock tic-tocs away in our heads.

It is a lot of weight to carry, not knowing if you are going to live or die. Knowing inside you can still feel the strong powerful woman you once were trying her best to roar like a lioness while recognizing those memories are waning, fading away, replaced by memories of milestones like the time you walked unassisted from your bed to the bathroom without collapsing or were able to get dressed with no oxygen on in just under 15 minutes. You are struggling to make the most of every day while only having enough energy to be cognoscente for 5 hours or less. Sleep is the only thing you know. You quit staring out the window because you can no longer have what’s outside. Fear gripping you constantly as anxiety rips through your soul. The only cure is more medication and a television filled with trash TV to keep your brain occupied 24/7. It becomes the new normal.

It is a lot of weight to carry not knowing if my wife is going to live or die. I have worked hard at caring for her over this last year. I have always thought of myself as kind of a half ass husband, but I can say without a doubt, I have done my very best to care for this woman I love. Making sure she has what she needs when she needs it, being there to hold her when she cries, assist her when she walks, make sure her medications are on time and she has food to eat before she takes her pills. I have grown to let her do things even though I don’t think she is ready for it. It gives her drive and purpose and if she can’t complete whatever she is trying to do, I am right there, a step away to encourage her when it is all over. I miss date nights with her, laughing our asses off at a little hole in the wall we would frequent in Winters, drinking wine and beer. Her staring into my eyes our faces inches apart and that smile! Oh that lovely beautiful smile!

But what I have instead is a better understanding of what marriage truly is. We all say the words; in sickness and in health, till death do us part. But how many truly understand the meaning? Marriage is a journey. And much like any journey it begins in the comfort of a room, with hopes, dreams and well intentioned plans. You both start out on the journey together, with fanfare, family and friends all wishing you well and it all seems smooth in the beginning; but when the journey strays off course, life becomes hard, bitter, with at times both of you not following the same plan you begin to define your relationship, and as storms come and go you rebuild, alter course and travel onward. A solid bond between two people and a solid relationship will flourish and grow with continued love and understanding thereby creating a foundation of stone.

I feel our relationship has done nothing but grow, leaving that foundation of stone for our children to stand upon and hopefully flourish. So although it has been a difficult year, good has come from this giant hill we are climbing together.

I haven’t been writing a lot about Jacy lately because we are living in our new normal. But as we move into the New Year approximately two hours from now I thought we would start the year off with an update.

Jacy has been feeling very sick, she is exhausted all the time, and can barely get out of bed. She has oxygen on 24/7 as without it her saturations levels fall dangerously low. Our family just returned from three days at the coast with family. Jacy was able to get out one day for four hours. She sat on the beach and enjoyed the ocean air surrounded by her sisters. It was an amazing moment for her and our family! Once back at the house she slept (not by choice) pretty much the rest of the time.

We are waiting to hear from her doctors as to what our next step should be.

She is scared as she doesn’t feel right, which of course is a different “right” from whatever “right” really has become for someone as sick as she is on a daily basis. She just seems to stay weak instead of getting stronger and that isn’t good. She has asked that as we head into the New Year, if people could please take a moment and send some prayers her way she would appreciate it. As we have seen over this three year journey a little prayer power goes a long way.

As the year comes to a close, I want to personally say Thank You to each and every one of you who have assisted my family in any way. Without the love and support we have received this journey would have been unimaginable.

Thank you all, Happy New Year and may all of you be blessed with an outstanding 2017!

 

 

 

 

 

Let’s go, let’s show, let’s rodeo.

Red was loaded down. The old truck held every conceivable piece of equipment one needed for a successful weekend. Saddles, bits, hay, shavings, chairs, clothes, food and one 33 foot long trailer. Three horses tucked neatly together separated by aluminum dividers munched on hay pressed into a bag that hung directly before their faces.

As we pulled out of the driveway the truck sputtered a few times, we even had to shut it off once or twice to reset the computer so she would keep dragging this heavy load. But no one cared. Any other weekend old reds antics would bring a look of nervousness upon our faces, an eye roll or two that this 208,000 mile beast was acting up again. But on this day we carried a bit more weight, and with that weight came a feeling of ease. Like we couldn’t do any wrong. I have to admit, even my feelings about whether we would make it or not waned.

For in the back seat, smiling from ear to ear, nestled between her two smallest children with a bag of needed supplies at her feet was Ms. Jacy!

Ms. Jacy had decided after two years of missing out on rodeo, not being a part of her children’s lives, unable to laugh and have fun in camp at night with all our friends, she was going to this rodeo hell or high water! No cancer, no leukemia, no AML, no bone marrow transplant, no GvHD, no nothing!! And so after carefully packing her bags, loading supplies into the trailer, GO, is exactly what she did!

There were plenty of worries/fears to go around. What if it is too dusty for her lungs to handle? What if she has an issue with her breathing? What if she becomes so fatigued she can’t move? What if she develops an infection from being around the animals??? What if, what if, what if?????

What if she was never able to personally witness the joys of her children participating in the one activity they really love ever again? Yeah, we believe that one thought outweighed all the other “what ifs”.

In reality, Ms. Jacy has been getting stronger. Her lungs still don’t want to fully co-operate, and neither does her body, but she has taken the stance of what doesn’t kill me should make me stronger! With that stance also comes a belief that she can look at life two ways.

  1. Sit in the house all day waiting for things to change, hoping they change, praying they change then regretting having done nothing but wait.
  2. Muscle through the pain, the discomfort and focus on what’s important. Living life, any life no matter what that life holds because in the end you can sit and watch it go by or jump on board and ride the wave!

Now as her husband I cannot lie, she worries me constantly. But if you know my wife then you know there is nothing, and I mean NOTHING anyone can say or do to change her stubborn Cuban mind once it is set!

So with that being said, she came along, which is exactly what we all wanted and it was a fabulous weekend! She was so happy to see her close friends, to watch her children perform, their children perform and to just be a part of life again! It was tough at times, by mid to late afternoon her feet would swell, she would be exhausted, but the kids were great, her friends were fantastic, and she never, not even once felt like a burden to anyone!

At one point during the rodeo we came back to find a poster on the side of our trailer! It was created by all the kids and it told of just how much she was missed and loved. It melted her heart.

Each morning she awoke with a smile, ready to watch rodeo, participate in any way possible, drink coffee, take pictures and catch up with people she hadn’t seen in years. It was the very best therapy anyone could have asked for!

The kids all did great! It was the best first rodeo I can remember in a long time! Oh Jessica struggled with her new horse and at one point actually fell off (of course she laughed at herself), Jake had a great Saturday but a stubborn Sunday and Parker didn’t quite get his steer wrestled, but it was a weekend filled with laughter and plenty of smiles.

Sunday night the traveling circus rolled back onto the ranch. Old red made it without a single hiccup which I found unusual. But as we cleared the front gate and rolled towards the barn, there lay three people, all half asleep, all exhausted from the weekend, all with looks of contentment upon their faces. (Jess rode home with friends) It was a thing of beauty.

Now of course this was short lived for as soon as I parked they all abandoned me to unload everything as if I was somehow their personal servant or barn boy which of course sent me into another stratosphere!!! But I digress…. Deep breath…. Phew…. Ok….

The point being, for a weekend, our family was back together, doing what we love, with momma in the stands cheering them on, sending them momma powers, and good mom mojo while I worked the arena, helped get horses ready and coached them along. It was the way it was supposed to be at that very moment in time. A step closer, as if life was almost back to normal.

It was a perfect weekend.

 

 

 

I met a woman today….

I stood nervously rocking back and forth. I don’t know why I still get nervous after all these years but I do. Just another presentation, a dog and pony show as it were but for some strange reason my brain reverts to when probationary was the status written below my helmets crest. Fear of failure, saying the wrong thing, not adequately relaying information to a public mass who in reality is really happy to have us around. Sure there is the occasional grump or bitter individual who for some reason carries a chip on their shoulder whenever we are around (and this night was no different) but the majority simply want to say hello, or thank you, or in some cases words can’t form and they sheepishly smile while politely waving as they pass.

It was a local schools annual harvest festival within our town. Our fire engine had been assigned to appear as part of an ongoing public education effort. We pulled up, met with organizers and took our place upon the basketball courts right next to our local Police department’s display. Doors opened, cabinets exposed, wrinkles shifted from our shirts, plenty of stickers loaded into the upper right pocket and in mere seconds they came and came and kept coming to our delight..

Over the course of two and half hours we helped children into our engine, showed them all our fire gear while explaining what we do along with a little bit of how we do it. Kids make me smile, they are honest, truthful, hilarious and have no filter. They are perfect human beings, their thought processes still untouched by the cruelty of adult life along with hurtful biases or opinions. There are days I wish I could still witness the world through their wide absorbing eyes. Days I wish I could go back and do a lot of things over again, channeling my inner child to greater achievements as an adult. But I can’t, none of us can and so the fun in my job is being surrounded by these fantastic awestruck little people.

Tonight though something else happened. This “something” has been happening more and more and I am not sure what to make of it. It always catches me off guard and I never know quite how to behave or present myself. Much like an acting student who for some unknown reason develops a serious case of behavior altering stage fright, I freeze under the pressure and become extremely uncomfortable.

In the middle of giving demonstrations a line had developed filled with children (and a few adults) waiting to climb into our Fire Engine. As we happily interacted with the masses by placing one child at a time inside the engine for picture opportunities a woman walked up and gently grasped my arm. She looked me in the eye and asked; Are you Betty? To which I replied; I am?

She then explained she had been battling breast cancer and with it how much she thoroughly enjoyed Betty’s writings.

As has been the usual mode of reaction, my cheeks felt flush, my heart rate doubled and I mumbled something. I don’t remember what I said because after I learn someone actually reads and enjoys my writings in person I suddenly feel like a 12 year old boy who has just professed his admiration to the prettiest girl in class and she’s responded by saying she likes me. Awkward and elated all at the same time!

This sweet lady with the kindest smile told me her husband was amazing, and how much she appreciated him along with all he has done for her during this very trying time in their lives. She asked if she could hug me, I said yes and as she did I felt thankful, warm, full of love and humbled.

As I have stated on numerous occasions, this blog took a life of its own when my wife became ill. It morphed into what I hoped would be nothing more than a journal to reflect upon after we hopefully conquered Leukemia. Then as time progressed it changed into an open forum for all to read hoping other spouses in my shoes would know they are not alone. A gnawing deep inside told me to share through my experiences with other spouses or caregivers. A reminder to others they have the power within them to carry on, pick up pieces and provide a solid foundation for not only their family and loved ones but for the countless other lives they touch along the way. Cancer, Leukemia, and Bone Marrow Transplants are no longer something someone else has, a blank face or nameless person looking sad upon a Facebook post or commercial asking for donations either monetary or life altering. But real people you know or someone you know knows! We can no longer turn our backs believing it is someone else’s problem to deal with because trust me the statistics showing those affected are all too real! This power lies within you to open others eyes, to reach out and comfort those who need your help because you my friend have walked this path and survived! These diseases do not curse just those who are carrying them and trust me their fight is hard enough for them to live with and handle on their own. But the entire process both physically and emotionally beats down hard upon all of us who live, love and care for those stricken. It is at times overwhelming at how much our lives change and the inner pain it can bring.

So to hear another human being while holding your arm explain with the warmest of smiles and softest of hearts exactly how your writings have meant something to them. Well that brings up emotions that are hard to contain.

I am not sure why I fumble my words, or feel uncomfortable. Maybe because I am shocked that anyone takes the time to read my blog at all. Helping people is all I have ever wanted to do, I always wonder just how many people actually take the time to read this spattering of words and I always wonder who? Who has it helped, who really needs to hear from someone right now because they feel as though they no longer can? Who? Who is at the end of their rope or feels like God doesn’t have a plan for them and this is all just a miserable dark place in their lives that will never end! Who? Am I reaching enough people? How do I reach more? If I do reach more am I writing the right material or am I even the right person they should be reading about? I really don’t think you can write the wrong material as long as it’s truthful and from the heart. But, what if I am wrong and someone out there is missing the point or thinking if that guy’s in pain, you know the one writing about always having faith and carrying on is in pain then why should anyone have faith things will be any better? I don’t have an answer to that!

Yet it remains so important to me; sharing that is. It has become so paramount there have been nights I lose sleep out of guilt for not having written in a week. Our loved ones and/or caregivers are so important, they bear so much emotional burden and over time people who were helping, slowly fade away. Its ok, they have lives, we as caregivers were and still are extremely blessed for the time any and all assistance was provided! It is how it’s supposed to be and no one expects anyone to still be constantly rescheduling their lives, away from their families and friends for 2, 3 or even 4 years later. Suddenly though one can understand how it is to become isolated and alone. 24/7 your whole world revolves around a single human being. Try as hard as you might at some point even your kids begin to suffer! Your intentions are great, you do the best you can and strive to keep their lives busy and full but trust me they feel it! They feel the isolation and to some extent a bit of emotional disconnect. Nothing changes though, we are still there, handling every aspect of our stricken loved ones lives? It is a job we take a lot of pride in, for if you love someone there is no greater gift than to care for them when they are down. It is what love is, it is what God would want.

So to the woman I met today.

Thank you, for filling my heart with joy, giving my writings meaning, and allowing me the honor of meeting you. I apologize if my response was awkward, it was not my intention.

You reminded me that one of the greatest gifts we as human beings have is the power to share ourselves openly with others. You gleefully shared your story with me by my having shared my story with you over time on these pages. Our lives crossed paths and I will never forget that.

My heart is full.

 

I can’t…

This morning I sat down, stared at the screen and thought; it has been awhile, I need to write. Hmm? What will I write about today? Maybe something funny, or pertaining to recently turning 50? I certainly do not wish to write anything sad. After reading a few of my last postings, I found my writings to be a tad whiney, or heavy. People certainly must be tired of the same old story.

Then as paragraph after paragraph littered the screen only to be erased by the mighty stroke of a delete button it came to pass I was trying too hard. So I asked myself; Self, why haven’t you written in a while?

And that’s where this posting truly began.

Betty, why haven’t you been writing?

The answer comes from a conversation openly held in the day room of a busy firehouse. Sitting in my recliner listening to others and their crazy busy lives. Camping trips, play dates with friends for themselves and their children. Fantastic vacations or simple evenings at home surrounded by family. Listening to life moving on as it should.

What was my answer?

Because I can’t…

Every time I think about writing lately, I stare at the screen and from the darkest bowels of my inner thinking machine a voice rises above all conscious thought and whispers; you can’t.

Getting up in the morning is a struggle. Oh I received 6-8 hours of sleep, yet the moment I must rise a fight with my inner voice arises. I can’t is all I hear. I may wander over to ensure the kids are up but then against my old daily routine I just climb back into bed, pull the covers over my head and pretend I’m not there because inside I just can’t see myself doing another day. I get over it and most days turn out pretty good after running into some of my favorite parents, co-workers and friends. But it is becoming an increasingly difficult struggle to get past step one of the day.

There is a mile long list of repairs and maintenance around our house. I wrote the list, and continually add to the list, yet I cannot seem to accomplish the list. I may get one or two of the easy things done, but then I panic, feel sick, and want to sit down near Jacy and veg-out. Excuses like needing to pick up the kids in an hour or man I am really tired all come to the forefront. But in the end, I just can’t seem to see myself getting anything done. I am sure it is no different with any other busy father, but for some reason that feeling is more burdensome than ever before.

Ever cry at sappy movies? Apparently the water works now turn on for just about anything! Ok watching the SPCA commercial where Sara McLaughlin is singing while sad eyed, unadoptable, abused animals are trapped at the shelter doesn’t count. You have to be pretty heartless to not squeeze a little water out of those orbital areas of yours after watching puppies cry. I found myself tearing up explaining a reality show the other day where the daughter of the contestant showed up to tell him he won! Kids doing well on Americas got talent, winning a round of American Ninja Warrior, or watching the friend’s episode where Ross and Rachel finally kiss!! Yep they all bring on the rain! WTF???? Hell Tommy Boy was on the other day and I was crying at the passing of Big Tom Callahan!!! I just can’t keep crying at everything it is wearing me out!

My fuse is much shorter and I can’t seem to control it or keep that Irish/Italian temper from rearing its ugly head. Poor Jake has been bearing the brunt lately. Now some of it rightly deserved but in hind sight more than a few times have gone over the line with things said that cannot be taken back. He always smiles at my apologies and says it ok he forgives me but all I can think about is deep inside I am probably hurting him, hurting his ability to grow and handle stressful situations. I am afraid one day I’ll snap over something stupid and he will have had enough. Irreversible damage complete. Then what? Oh well I can’t seem to wrap my mind around the parental complexities of this issue right now because I will start crying again and no one needs to see that here at work.

Everything seems impossible. From completing my monthly budget, paying bills, changing a light bulb or even just being something, anything. It all seems too much right now.

As I am writing this I just realized my heart rate has doubled. I figure it’s my fight or flight response to even mentioning any of this in combination with feelings trapped inside that I can neither recognize nor willingly let out.

I keep using the analogy that I am a bottle filling with sand. Burdensome, gritty, heavy sand. This sand has reached the top and either I am able to upset the bottle, pouring out this heavy, gritty, burdensome property carefully into a container of contentment or it will overflow, and we all know what happens when sand pours upon us against our will. We end up carrying it home, it’s stuck in the crack of our ass and it takes a month of vacuuming to get it out of the car!

Our life has been incredibly hard. It remains that way. Watching my wife suffer daily is taking a toll on me. Of course I have no right to complain in comparison to the toll it is taking on her. It has been a long, long road.

Jacy has had several hospital stays of late. The other day they put a port back in to help with her current treatment which feels like a giant set back. The steroids have doubled the size of her face and left her weaker than normal. The other day while at a friend’s house doing her very best to live life as normal as possible she fell. Yep, a simple walk down a 10 yard path from patio to arena and her legs just quit! She ended up with a bloody, black and blue eye as her sunglasses tore open the fragile flesh under her eye. She feels consistent insult to injury on a daily basis.

My wife has decided to live life, to go to rodeos, make trips to the store, and do her best to become the mom that she was pre-BMT. She doesn’t have the energy or the strength, but she does have the resiliency or ballsy moxie to do exactly what she wants, family or doctors be damned! I admire her on many levels. I do my best to let her accomplish what she wishes within reason, while at the same time worrying if she is doing more harm than good? Once again though, who am I to say? I don’t currently have the body of an elderly woman, no strength, no vision, with pain surging throughout my entire body 24/7. I don’t need to consume 23 meds, three times a day while also partaking in breathing treatments (4 different kinds) wearing oxygen and doing my best to keep myself fed when I either don’t wish to eat at all or only crave crap food of no real substance? I may be her husband, the only person she can truly confide in, the one who promised in sickness and health, till death do us part. Yes that may buy me some vote, but if it was me? If it was me this was all happening too, would I have the strength to make it another day for my kids the way she does every single day? Would I wake up every morning, take my meds, and then do my best to smile while making school lunches even though I really can’t see? Could I sit in a chair for most of the day either passed out from the very same medications or wide awake scanning the internet feeling like shit because I couldn’t go outside with my horses? Could I kiss my kids goodnight with confidence that tomorrow will be a better day like she does? She is angry, she is sad, she is happy, she is resentful, she is hopeful, she still wishes every day for one more day, one more week, one more month, and one more year. Another camping trip or the ability to take a family cruise. She is amazing.

Could I be like her?

I can’t………………………..

 

At the end of the day, whiny or not, dark and gloomy be damned. I decided to write these blog postings journaling my wife so others who may be feeling the same way would know it is ok. It is part of this weird, sometimes unforgiving magical mystery tour we are on and you are not alone. To those currently in treatment. This may be the way your caretaker or spouse is feeling and to know they love you, care about you and will do anything to make your life, your situation easier for you. We will never leave your side, so don’t be afraid to be who you want to be, use what strength you have to enjoy whatever moment you wish to enjoy and know the whole time we will be standing right by your side. Even though right now I feel as though “I can’t” when it comes to many things, I will always believe in the “can” most of us hold deep inside. I also believe that for the most part all people are good caring human beings and no matter the situation we all rise to the occasion.

Ok, I’m done. I can’t write anymore….

 

 

 

 

Fear

Let’s talk about fear.

Fear is a state induced by perceived danger or threat that occurs in certain types of organisms, which causes a change in metabolic and organ functions and ultimately a change in behavior, such as fleeing, hiding or freezing from perceived traumatic events.

Traumatic events?

Like watching your wife wither away to nothing, struggling to find happiness because she never feels as though there is any progress being made. To her it feels as though her body is just not getting any better! Gloom at only having only enough strength to make it from the bed upstairs to the chair downstairs then remain frozen in time as the world passes her by? Nightmares that she is still at Stanford, never to come home again.

A change in behavior?

Oh yes you mean as in a person once vibrant and bubbly now hiding from herself, the mirror and even people, for she no longer sees herself in reflection but the remnants of a weary, pharmaceutically scarred body? She no longer hears the echoes of love resonating but wallows in pictures from what once was feeling nothing but self-doubt. Trying her hardest every day to find a positive reflection only to collapse under the burden of repetitive negativity pounding in her brain.

Induced by perceived danger or threat?

As in cold sweat, elevated heart rate and blood pressure whenever the word “hospital” is uttered. A doctor insisting she walk through sterile front doors to an awaiting isolation room with no timeline for departure. The minute a fever arises or a cough lingers to long.

The thought of our children being alone, again. Waking up to an empty house, no wife to found, sad faces walking like zombies as they know they won’t see dad again for another few days. Family will help, faces will be there for comfort and assistance but it is not their parents. The threat of mom and dad not being home, wondering when they will come home and if mom will come home at all is always lingering.

And so fear grips us again as Jacy has made another journey to Stanford.

Work has been crazy hectic! Coming home on Wednesday after being at work for three days I walked into an empty house. The first day of school was in the books! Jacy’s one wish through all her recent complications was to make the first day of school. To be with her children and tell them she loved them as they exited the car. She accomplished her mission. After two years with me sending first day photos to her in the hospital I came home knowing my wife was going to be ecstatic! Yet one thing I did notice while at work, was she hadn’t posted anything on FB. Seriously! It is a first day tradition across this great nation to post your first day pic’s on Facebook!!!! Something must be wrong…

Making my way through the house what struck me was the utter silence, then as I made my way through the house I realized it was way too quiet. Calling for Jacy I received no answer. I really did expect her to be downstairs in her chair half crying/laughing waiting to tell me just how amazing it had been to drive her children to school and drop them off! She reached a milestone; living long enough to see her kids off to school one more time. But there was nothing, she was nowhere to be seen.

Checking the window to ensure I had in fact passed her car on the way up to the house. I turned and sprinted up the stairs, opened the door to our bedroom and there she lay, in a ball, crying/moaning. She wasn’t shedding tears of joy, but instead tears of pain. After a little conversation and a full patient assessment I asked if she wanted me to call Gayla her nurse coordinator. She asked me to wait until her pain meds kicked in, and so with hesitation I planted myself at the desk and waited. I didn’t need to wait long.

The pain was enormous, her head hurt, her body hurt and she felt nauseous. All bad signs. An immunocompromised subject’s body is constantly doing a fine juggling act between medications that both allow her immunosuppression system to work and drugs that suppress that very system. It is all in an effort to keep harmony while both allowing her white cells to protect the body but since they are not her white cells, keeping them from destroying the body which it sees as foreign all in the same stroke. Confusing, amazing and horrific at times to watch.

She finally stood up, looked me dead in the eye and said; I need to go to the hospital now! I again mentioned Stanford but was rebuffed as she could no longer tolerate the pain. We rapidly loaded a few things and headed to the Kaiser. Kaiser is no more than 5 miles from our home. We feel blessed to be so very close to such a wonderful facility. Arriving at the ER we were put in a room fairly quickly and were warmly greeted by staff. The on duty doctor was one of our favorites and within minutes (a lifetime to Jacy) she had IV pain meds which allowed to her to finally relax and feel some relief.

I stepped outside while a lumbar puncture was performed to call Gayla her nurse coordinator. After a brief explanation of her symptoms along with justification for the stop at Kaiser, Gayla assured me she would grab Dr. Muffly ASAP and call me right back. The phone rang within minutes and a transfer to Stanford was being arranged. Dr. Muffly wanted her there and she wanted her right now!

Of course Jacy wanted nothing to do with this plan! Fear had set in.

It was the first day of school and she wouldn’t be there when her babies returned, she promised she would be there! She didn’t want to be stuck at Stanford again, how long would they keep her, why are they keeping her, can’t she just go home after the headache subsides? She doesn’t feel like an inpatient, whatever they need to do can be on an outpatient status!

Fear makes you overlook the obvious. We all knew she needed to go. She was still in pain, we had no answers as to why her face was swollen, her head hurt so badly, and she was feeling nauseous. But fear can help you justify anything.

The ambulance came.

I had gone home, packed her some clothes and returned to the hospital just in time for the ambulance to arrive. We loaded her up and in usual Jacy fashion, people needed to come say goodbye and good luck. She is always making friends wherever she goes. Kissing her on the cheek, saying goodbye I closed the back doors of the ambulance like I have done a thousand times in my career. It didn’t feel right. I thanked the guys taking her and walked back to the car. Sitting in the driver’s seat with a very heavy heart I watched the ambulance slowly drive away.

My head hurt, my bones began to hurt and I felt nauseous. Here we go again.

I needed to work the next four days and Jacy made me promise I wouldn’t follow her down. I called her family and they agreed to meet her when she arrived so she wouldn’t be alone. I went home, greeted the kids, asked how their first day of school was and after a few jokes and giggles the elephant in the room reared its ugly head to bellow.

Where’s mom?

Now imagine being 10. Knowing your mom has been sick for a very long time, she goes to the hospital one day with the promise of being home in a couple of months. Instead you are living through her being absent from your life for 7 months while you travel back and forth to see her once a week. You now remember at one point it was very bad as nervous and scared adults circled around you, acting weird, treating you differently all because the end looked near. They kept it from you, but you knew because even though you are a kid, you are perceptive. Then you wake up one morning and mom is home! She is home in time for your birthday and all is right within your ten year old mind again. Now every time she goes to the doctor your 11 year old mind starts to worry. She comes back from the doctor each time, which makes you happy, but you still worry, and you are a little distrustful of information provided by adults in regards to your mom’s health.

That was look I had to deal with when asked; where’s mom? That look quickly turned into a squinty face and before I could even say; moms headed back to Stanford, the tears began to flow. They flowed hard and fast. Jessica looked in shock, Jake hung his head and Parker cried and cried some more. This little boy’s fear had come true and my heart was breaking. Some days I feel as though there is a constant grip around my chest and I just can’t take anymore.

The long and the short of it is this, we all face fear, each and every day in one way or another. Fear is gripping, mind bending and often time paralyzing.

I hate fear.

August 13, 2016

Today is day four at Stanford. I didn’t write anything or spread the word right away because I am having a hard time coming to grips with her being there again. It is weighing heavily on me and even though she most likely will go home on Tuesday evening each time it happens fear grips not only her but our entire family. We still have no word on the cause of her body pain or associated headache. Jacy had some severe swelling in her face that was most likely caused by a plugged salivary gland. She is partaking in *photopheresis?dialysis to hopefully clear her blood of any viruses still lingering around. Her steroids have been raised and they are tweaking her medications to be more proactive in this ongoing viral war. Getting her home can’t come soon enough!

More to come….

*Photopheresis

In medicine, photopheresis (aka extracorporeal photopheresis or ECP) is a form of apheresis and photodynamic therapy in which blood is treated with a photosensitizing agent and subsequently irradiated with specified wavelengths of light to achieve an effect.

 

 

365 days

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.

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