Being Thankful-One year and seven days later

Another Thanksgiving has come and gone. I browsed briefly through many blogs this afternoon all touting the importance of being thankful and although I hate jumping on any blog bandwagon (Ferguson), I find that this evening in particular thankfulness shall abound and with good reason.

One year and seven days ago I stood in an arena, working a cute grey mare, getting her in shape to practice hard during the off-season. At 11:40 am my phone rang and through trembling voice my wife informed me she needed to head towards Vallejo Kaiser immediately or she might die.

Think about that for a moment.

A seemingly perfect day, slightly overcast and a little chilly brought to a screeching halt, turned upside down because of one single phone call and the words “I might die”. I have been dealt this card before so my recollection powers are incredibly strong and as I type the smell of cold wet sand and winter eucalyptus trees fill my senses. A moment captured forever deep within my brain.

One year and seven days ago our world changed forever. Although we try, it’s like the ghost in the closet, the elephant in the room, the fat lady who hasn’t sung yet. It is just there.

One year and seven days ago, I didn’t know if there was going to be a forever for her and me. I cried, hard, then did what I always do; Sat down, absorbed all the information, shut my mouth for a while, and developed a plan.

One year and seven days ago my friends, people I have known and cared about knocked on my door, called me, walked into my home and said nothing more than: how can we help? I have never been good at accepting help, I am a helper by nature not a recipient, but all that changed and they assured me with love that I had no say in the matter.

One year and seven days ago my children sat dumbfounded, confused, and unable to comprehend exactly what was going on. Words like chemotherapy, drugs, cancer, Leukemia, blood cells, and sick all became a staple of conversation in their worlds. They never quite knew how to take it all, the thought that their mother might die, but they did in their own ways. It changed them a little, I am not sure what the lasting effect will be, only time will tell.

One year and seven days ago a six month odyssey began with month-long stays in the hospital, missing most of our high schoolers senior year, juggling a family with the help of friends, multiple midnight runs to the emergency room, nights alone wondering if she was going to die, nights in bed with her wondering if she was going to die. Days knowing she would be alright only to be slapped in the face with another trip to the hospital. Days of triumph and love, nights of cursing our life and the strain it was bringing to our family and to her. Nights of praising God for the reprieves, and slowly understanding things were going to get better.

One year ago today we had Thanksgiving in our house. The meal was completely prepared by friends, family and strangers. It was amazing that so many people cared about us, our family and our children to the extent of ensuring we had a thanksgiving meal. We Facetimed with Jacy that night and before desert could be dished I was back on the road, heading to Kaiser to sit with my wife, thankful to be able to do so thanks to a rapid diagnosis by an extraordinary young doctor and a myriad of family and friends watching my children.

Tonight, my wife lies next to me asleep from a long day of travel and family. She is not perfect, she may never be the same as she was before, although it won’t be for a lack of trying. Her emotions are still raw from 6 months of chemo-hell, her brain struggles with the after effects of chemotherapy at times which leaves her frustrated and her body is always doing strange things. We don’t know how long chemo-brain will last, we don’t know how long her body will continue to hold her down when it comes to strenuous activities and we don’t know if the leukemia will come back in one year, five years or never. But put all that aside and what you’re left with is one mother of four who can hug and kiss her children and to date is cancer free.

For that, on this Thanksgiving Day, I am thankful….

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My little angel might be no angel at all…

What you are about to read is an opinion; it is not a solution, it is based upon expressed emotions pondered for a specific amount of time. We (as a society) are allowed opinions afforded us through the first amendment to the United States Constitution. Although we are afforded these rights, I will never abuse that privilege. I have and always will take very seriously what ever opinion is put forth by my ever spinning brain.

I purchased a laptop, and promised stories would continue, I wrote a few relatively funny snippets about parenthood but just could not bring myself to post them. Why? Life got in the way, and my sense of humor has been affected.

Over the past couple of weeks since posting my last story a multitude of events have transpired both locally and nationally  leaving me wondering what the hell?

  1. A warning comes down from the federal government stating that ISIS is now looking at soft targets.  That is right; no longer are we safe in our homes as operatives are now individually targeting military personnel, (first and foremost) police officers, politicians and firefighters.  We now have terrorism at its very core.  When you become afraid to post with pride what you do for a living through social media, walk out your front door, and fear for your family’s safety.  Our country has a serious problem. Note I said “fear” because that is the root of terrorism. It may never happen, it probably will never happen, but the fear is always there, always present.  For this I have no comment other than to shake my head in sadness for our country.
  2. School shooting in Washington.  We have all read or watched the reports.  Teenage boy gets together with his closest friends during lunch like he does everyday then pulls a gun from his backpack and proceeds to shoot them in the back, in the middle of the cafeteria, with all to see.
  3. Teenager walks towards a high school, back pack containing a handgun and several rounds of ammunition.  A friend of said teenager feels comments he made the previous day are of concern, notifies school administrators that this teenager had in fact made credible threats in regards to coming to school and shooting several individuals, including a teacher that very day. (this is all para-phrased) Long story short-cops look for teenager, teenager finds them first unloading several rounds into unsuspecting patrol car, barely missing the police officer inside. Short chase ensues, face off happens, teenager ends up with a superficial wound after being shot (public knowledge) by police.
  4. A young girl decides she has had enough.  After some discussion with her mother she disappears from home, the police are called and a missing persons report is filed. What no one knows or could have known was this girl proceeded to walk towards the train tracks and step boldly in front of a 70mph Amtrak train. I say boldly because it takes a certain amount of resolve/inner pain to willingly step in front of a moving train. It makes me nauseous just thinking about it.  It was my shift, my guys responded to the incident, and all though it is not the first time nor will it be the last time for our crew dealing with such a morbid scene along the railway. It has forever changed the face of suicide for each and every one of us. Her reasoning for taking her life stemmed from bullying.

These four things all happened with in the last few weeks.  I have screamed at the television, written a few things in regards, decided the tone was all wrong and deleted the subject matter. I as have all of you, have sat patiently while political pundits cast stones in all directions away from any responsibility their own party may bear.  I am frustrated, confused, disgruntled and angry! As a parent it makes no sense to me why we can’t create solutions! Instead we all sit by as the news media (who cares not one bit about finding an answer through non bias reporting, but instead thrives on ratings and if there are none then the story disappears forever) gnaws on the raw meat that is our emotions. My emotions are raw as well. I have pondered and pondered, written and as I stated before, erased. My blog has always been about my life, the life of my family, the fun and exasperating moments along the way. I never want anything on my page to become a political debate as it takes away from the fun.  Unfortunately this is still about my family as I have been affected personally by each of these 4 stories. Number #1 is self-explanatory. The shooting in Washington, #2, only in relation to #3 as my crew responded to this incident, and the “what if’s” rolled fast and furious afterwards. What if he made it to the school? What if-it turned into a mass shooting are we prepared? What if- my son was one of the victims could I have continued to do my job? Number #4 was also my crew and opened my eyes to what is out there, pulling my head from the sand and re-evaluating my own personal responsibility when it comes to our children. Remember these are only my opinions, and although many may disagree I am open to any conversation that is held respectfully on these topics.

  1. More gun laws- More gun laws are not the answer. I would like to say they are but they are not. The answer: allow our police officers to do their jobs, then hold the courts accountable for not upholding the strictest of sentences when these laws currently in place are broken!!! We don’t ever hold our court system accountable! It amazes me that a drug offense is stricter than a gun violation. Our country screams for justice, why are we not starting with the justice system! We knee jerk react instead of planning for the future in turn we allow another idiot politician to revel underneath his own fodder, founding a bill in their
    name so he/she can pat him/herself on the back a little more.  Here is another idea, how about a revision of all laws currently on the books in regards to guns? I bet there are many that are redundant or have no bearing what so ever in this supposed civilized society! Listen people a sign at school that says this is a no gun zone doesn’t mean shit to an angry person hell-bent on vengeance.  And if it’s not a gun, then maybe its a crossbow, or a knife or what ever that angry person is using in the commission of a crime. Hell a weapon is not a description used solely for guns as the news media would have you believe! A weapon is any object used in the commission of a heinous act.  I get it, put up the sign which creates another charge added to the suspect, but that leads us back to my original complaint! Our justice system. Now before you get angry with me, I am neither pro-nor anti gun.  I am for reasonable people making reasonable decisions when it comes to our future as a society. Something I feel we have lost.
  2. Bullying- Ok so we have all been bullied at one time or another in our lives. If you have read any of my stories than you know in high school I was a bit mouthy (yes that means I bullied a time or two as well).  Got myself into trouble and at times ran scared (being bullied in return).  The ability to handle those situations and learn from them is what made me the person I am today, it developed my character.  We as parents cannot protect our children from everything and at some point they (our kids)  need to learn to stand up for themselves, hopefully with our help and guidance. Although that all sounds good and fine, it is not happening, the problem lies with our current way of living, our social structure, the need for rapid gratification! What is the problem, the root cause you ask?  Social media and a severe lack of respect! Not just for others, but for ourselves! Our children are not equipped for what lays in wait for them on the internet, like a wolf hiding in grandmas dress waiting for little red riding hood to come through the door, so does the internet. We have provided our children with too much! To much freedom, too much trust, to many  electronic gadgets with windows to a world we just can’t keep shut from prying eyes! Television shows  that exemplify treating your best girlfriends like shit, talking behind their backs, having sex as a social status in school! Teenage girls portrayed as sluts, hookers, meat for young boys to have anyway they wish and whenever they want! And if you don’t give it up, you are anonymously trashed on every social media site available! FB, Yik Yak, KIK, Snap-chat all there to post how she was a slut, what degrading acts you performed on her (or really didn’t but by lying about it you keep your rep), why she should sleep with your friends-oh hello snap-chat! Here is a picture of her naked everyone, I took it with my cell phone camera! I promised I wouldn’t show any one, but I lied! Also On the Snap-Chat front, girls willingly sending pictures of their boobs to boys! What the hell! It’s no wonder bullying is such a problem! Dont believe me?                               I will use Yik-Yak as an example. I downloaded the app, set my geographical area to the center of my town, within one hour I knew where to go for drugs, who was looking to score, what girls were hoes (yes I even knew a few of them) whose ass was so hot it needed to be (one boys own words) POUNDED! I now know the description of several shapes of a penis’, the detailed description of both what its like having inter-racial sex and sex between boys, what group everyone wants to kill at school, who the hottest teacher is everyone wants to sleep with, and so one. And I really mean SO ON!!! Oh and let me add I only chronicled the boys here, the girls are just as descriptive, mouthy and vile. As a parent I have never been so disgusted by what I read in a very short period of time.  Did we talk this way as teenagers 35 years ago? Hell yes we did, not to the extreme I am reading here, but yup! It happened. The difference is it was between us, our small group, done in person and if you crossed the line it was handled then and there, either with apologies afterwards or some smoothing over that took a few weeks.  Today they are all hidden behind a veil of secrecy, they can say what they want without retribution, it gives them power! It creates monsters that have no repercussion for their actions. The ones with no conscience, or parental guidance will only grow bigger and stronger until someone decides they have had enough, choosing to step in front of a train as their only option, as opposed to seeking help, receiving that help and living.

Unlike the gun control debate where I only provide a suggestion; I think I have a solution to help us begin to conquer our social media related troubles.

  • We can start by eliminating cell phones from campus.  I am sorry your little angel is at school and you need to get ahold of them right now, but guess what? THEY ARE AT SCHOOL!!!! We didn’t have cell phones at school in my day and our parents got along just fine without us! If little Johnny needs a message from you then go through the office! Its called the chain of command. Something we use to a T in the fire service.  If you don’t allow your school to guide and control the motions and activities of your child while they are on campus then you are circumventing the system and empowering your child. You are telling your child they are more important than the lesson being provided which in turn takes away from the respect due towards the instructor inside the classroom.  Eliminate phones and you eliminate distractions, kids texting kids, taking pictures, surfing the internet. Dont tell me your little one would never do that, because I guarantee if given the chance they will. If we can’t take them away (cell phones) maybe just as a few of these social apps restrict their use while near a school campus, we jam all cell signals within the same specified area, neutralizing the temptation. Just a thought.
  • Mandatory bullying class- a class taught by adults, sharing their experiences being bullied. Bullying doesn’t just happen to children, it also happens to adults, if we are to become this great civilized society, an example to all around the world then why aren’t we educating ourselves in regards to the destructive nature of bullying.  Why are we not recognizing the life long damage it can create? Why are we not empowering the weak, celebrating the strong and bringing them all closer together.  Our society currently crushes the weak, watch any teenage show on Disney and prove me wrong. We are teaching our children to cast them aside instead of standing up, protecting them, and showing compassion. Our children, parents and siblings should be supportive, creating change, providing a better society that thrives on pushing forward mankind, people’s rights and ability to thrive. It sounds nice I know, I also know we can’t save everyone, but education has and always will be the key.

So there it is, its off my chest. Like me or hate me, agree or disagree. I felt it had to be said. I am tired of fearing for our world and what we as adult are allowing to happen. I am just as guilty as the next person. My children are just like yours and given the same opportunities will follow the very same paths without proper guidance from their mother and me.  In the end, it comes down to this, we are trying our hardest to raise respectful, well-rounded children who understands the needs of others. It’s a hard enough job parenting with both of us working multiple jobs and running from one kids sporting event to the next, but it is what we signed up for and we all need a little help now and again.  I also never want to see another young child take their life, or see a kid who is so frustrated they feel killing someone or there fellow students is the answer. Because it never is.

Betty is sad………

 

48- How did that happen..

James Franceschi (AKA- Betty)

Born August 19, 1966

Chosen Profession (note I said “chosen”) Firefighter

Dream profession Writer

Betty is now 48 years old.

That is right 48 years walking this spherical hunk of rock, dirt, sand and water! 45 of them I didn’t even know I was a Betty! Pretty strange huh?

30 of them spent learning and trying to understand the world. 18 of them raising children, doing my best to be a father with no guidebook to help. 19 of them as a firefighter dealing with the very worst of someone’s day on a regular basis. 10 of them spent behind the wheel of a semi truck crossing the highways of these western United States. 8 of them (because that’s the farthest back I can remember my brain acting this way) praying to be able to shut my brain off with no real success…

So what’s a guy to do now that he is 48?

I have decided to make a list of things to accomplish before I am 50 years old. The half century mark, gateway towards my “golden” years, the beginning to a silver lining covering my head and beard, doorstep to AARP, Social Security, and the old folks home.  Thank goodness for Dentu-grip, Efferdent, Ben-Gay and the Clapper! Bring forward the oatmeal cause Wilford Brimley said so, find me a no slip tub and time to obtain a reverse mortgage right after purchasing my Life Alert so when I have fallen some one can get me up! Anyone have the number for a Lark distributor because according to my co-workers I will be in need of one very soon.

Anyways I am a list maker. If it is not written down it was never said, implied, intended or goal driven to completion. Therefore a list of awe-inspiring, door stopping, jaw dropping exploits shall ensue. (ok not really but here’s the list anyways)

  1. Jump from a perfectly good airplane. Been a motto my whole life, why would anyone wish to do such a thing. Well time to conquer my fear of dying and just do it.
  2. Climb to the top of Half Dome. I made it all the way to the base, started up and had to come back down because we were sliding so badly on the granite, my ten-year old son was terrified, so I gently coaxed him back to the bottom where we patiently waited for the remainder of the group. I must stand at the top and survey all before me.
  3. Score a 72 on a cutting horse. Unless you have ridden a cutting horse or are a fan of cutting horses, you will not understand just how important this really is to me.
  4. Finally quit putting everything aside for everybody else and purchase a jeep. I have wanted one for well over ten years and every time I get close we find something else we need, or something breaks, or I need to use the truck replacement fund plus money set aside for this all terrain, topless wonder to repair, replace or re-use something else. I quit riding motorcycles, sold my bass boat and it is has become a personal quest I must complete for me. Its selfish, but I don’t care, after all I am almost 50.
  5. Run the Tough Mudder with my son. My wife and I competed in one and completed it, Cody was to young and I made a promise we would do one together. I need to not let that promise go by the wayside and follow through.
  6. Write a book. I have several avenues to work on, I just need to quit making excuses as to why I can’t, and start focusing on how I can.
  7. Go hiking more. It’s not a big one, but our country is beautiful and it just can not be seen from the windshield of your car.
  8. Ride my mountain bike more.  Now I know this also isn’t a big one, but according to statistics, my ability to do so shall dissolve within three to five years. (hence the need for a Lark)
  9. Zip line over a forest canopy. Once again fear of things out of my control.
  10. Lose thirty pounds! I am overweight again and it seriously is affecting me both physically and mentally. If only I could just put down the fork at dessert time!

Bonus listing: Learn to forgive myself. Not sure the next 50 years will be any fun until I figure out how to do that one little thing.

So there is ten things for me to work on.  I am sure other goals will be set and a few of those will be destroyed, but they are written down and if history has anything to do with it, when ever I write something down, nine times out of ten I complete them.

What kind of lists have you written, are there any goals you aspire to complete?

Wish me luck only 728 days to go….

 

It is your time….

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Fear resides as the devils left hand while hope lies within the depths of the right.

As a young man I would lay in bed wondering what would become of my life. Not just the normal glossary topics such as marriage, children etc.. But what would BECOME of my presence here on earth, both in the present and long after I am gone. There has always been a yearning to become more, a feeling as though there is more for me to accomplish, left gazing to the heavens wondering what more could be out there and hoping that one day all would reveal itself to me. You see fear has always kept me from being exceptional at anything and hope has continued to keep those dreams alive through wild daydreaming and at times pointless planning. But in the end my inability to control my fears have left me with nothing more than hope and for that an empty feeling deep within my soul remains.

As we enter the final days until Cody leaves for college, it has occurred to me this conversation has never taken place between the two of us. Is he prepared to strike out on his own? Does he have a true vision of what his life will become, where he is headed, and if he has a plan? Or does he even need one?

Do his daydreams have meaning, has anyone ever told him they are part of the fabric for which his inspiration will evolve. When we are young we should be encouraged to follow those dreams to strike out on our own, throw caution to the wind, find out who we are by testing the very mettle molded by our parents and the experiences held up to this point.

As a child I was constantly warned that daydreaming was a complete waste of time. But it was where I went, or could go to be whatever I wanted to be at any moment. As a child I was also terrified to daydream out of fear of punishment, chastised for the very waste of time others felt my mental trips to be. As an adult I believe daydreaming, contemplation, to meditate is the mystical treasure map of our lives. Where do we want to be? What do we want to become? It’s all right there, trapped within our magnificent, organic, computers (the brain). Stare into the distance; let your mind take over and what do you see? Are you on a beach in Tahiti or piloting an aircraft? Can you feel the warmth between your toes as you stroll across a cobblestone path or are you closing big deals in the heart of New York’s financial district? Can you hear the applause of a packed theatre as your performance brings down the house or the cold sting of a winter’s night as you walk carefully up the side of a car you just pulled over for speeding, no back up, alone? Does a fire engine race by as you gaze into the unknown whilst its sirens leave you with chills, or do you feel empathy and an inner strength as though you could perform that very job? Can you smell the dirt roads of an impoverished country and see yourself guiding those in need or walking across an unknown landscape with no destination in sight until you unknowingly stumble across a new challenge, or fortune.

Do you see yourself doing GREAT THINGS!

There is an old adage that our parents told us as youngsters; when you grow up you live in a country that will allow you to be whatever you choose to be. Personally I prefer: There is nothing you can’t do once you put your mind to it. But my personal favorite is: if you can dream it, you can be it.

So to my son, his friends, every boy and girl heading out into the world I say; this is your time! This is when you take a moderate amount of responsibility and huge dose of dreams and find out who you are, what you are, how much you really like yourself, then squish it all together and become whatever you want to be too this world! Yes! It won’t be perfect! Yes it will be messy at times and involve meeting new people, understanding those you have nothing in common with and occasionally like a sculpture in the works need a little molding from time to time. Yes you will leave behind people you care about as well as those you don’t, but have learned something from just the same. Yes! It will take work, hard work, so hard at times you will feel like quitting but you won’t because you have a dream. Leave a legacy, a mark, have a moment in time that will forever be yours and remember to never, ever quit daydreaming.

To every adult out there who reads my blog. I have never stopped daydreaming, but I have allowed my inability to control fear keep me from accomplishing my dreams. Hopefully life, burdened with all its responsibilities has not left you stunted in the same fashion, unable to dream big, achieve those dreams then close your eyes and smile wide; for now that you have done your job as a parent; it is “your time” as well.

Dream big, open your eyes and see what happens when you push fear aside….

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The finish line is near!!!

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So many things in life we take for granted. The simplest of acts become mundane, automatic, without drive or thought. Yet when we see someone struggling to perform a “simple” act; walking across the street or sitting down unassisted, putting on clothing without an obvious look of disarray.  Read, anything, without confusion or hold a conversation without trailing off into never never land.  Our thought process leads us to feel pity, we take stock upon ourselves and wonder how we would survive under these conditions.

I have witnessed my wife over an almost six month period transcend from a vibrant, healthy, athletic, intelligent woman to a human being half her size, barely able to walk under her own power, not able to finish a sentence or complete a thought without frustration or mental exhaustion. A woman who traveled the world to one not able to rise from her bed while trapped inside a white four walled hospital room cell.

She cried, I cried, she longed to come home, I longed to have her home, she felt as though life was passing her by, I felt as though our life was passing us by, she fought hard, I fought hard. Cancer/Leukemia is no joke. Chemotherapy is no joke. My understanding of all we take for granted in our lives now runs very deep.

Thank you Jacy.

Now you are probably wondering why I am thanking my wife? But what you don’t understand is without her none of this could or would have been possible. The “this” I am referring to is compassion, strength, love, anger, inspiration.

Jacy Franceschi proclaimed while holding my hand on November 20 2013 that she would beat Cancer. She thanked the lord for blessing her with this challenge, she apologized to him in prayer for she didn’t understand why it had to be her but she was willing to accept what lay before her. We looked into each others eyes, she proceeded to ask what I was thinking. I told her if anyone could beat cancer it was her. We talked about fear, our love and the future we were going to have together. We cried some more…

After sitting in the hospital our first night I vowed to make her life as seamless as possible while we traveled along this journey.  It took a lot of hard work but I am pretty sure I succeeded.

She says I was her rock. Yet she was just as much mine. She says I always made her smile and laugh when she felt horrible. In reality she made me laugh as only my wife knows how. She said without me she would never have made it. In reality because of her when I was tired or hurt I never complained, after 18 hour days of hospital time, childrens needs and the ranch, it was the thought of being able to see her the next day that kept me going.

Because of my wife our life needs to slow down, and because of Cancer it finally will.

We never know how long we have, we never know the exact moment of time it will all come to an end. But what we do know how to do is live for the here and now. What we do know how to do is accept what is given and forgive what is not. What we do know how to do is love one another for every minute of every second of every day. What we do know how to do is not waste our precious time here on earth.

Inspiration comes in many forms and as I found out over the last 6 months, mine comes from my wife and hers comes from me.

November 20, 2014 the world felt as though it would end.  November 22, 2014 we found out had she not gone to the doctor when she did, she most likely would have passed away a week later. Here today April 22, 2014 the darkness is gone, we are still a week away from a final bone marrow draw, we are still a week away from hearing those words we have been longing to hear.

The sky is bright, and so is our future. She is becoming incredibly stronger each day, I feel blessed to share every moment with her possible. I feel this chapter coming to a close, and I cannot wait to see what the next chapter holds, for her, for me, for our children.

Life is good… Thank you Jacy, I love you..

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The Face of Leukemia

 

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The face of Leukemia is slowly starting to smile again. Her radiance glowing from under the shroud of another long stay. Its been another 8 long grueling days of high fevers, infections, blood work with crazy numbers, CT scans, swollen lymph nodes and skin so irritated that touching it or an accidental rub or scratch would leave strange marks.

This week Jacy endured another week long headache from hell, nausea, and a colossal loss of appetite. She lost more weight, became so fatigued that walking from the bed to the bathroom left her exhausted. She hallucinated under the spell of multiple pain medications and tried her best not to throw up when anyone was around.  The face of Leukemia has been drug through the trenches, fought the war, wiped the sweat from her brow then laid still wondering if there was more.  and there was…

Under the covers on top of the bed, warm or cold, drenched in sweat or so hot and dry the desert looks cool.  All this woman can think of is coming home to see her babies, her children, to be normal, a mom like any other.  The face of Leukemia is yearning to tell her kids to clean up their rooms, help them with homework, watch them ride their horses or simply walk by an open door at night, only to peek in and watch them sleeping peacefully.

No longer do the simple things in life feel mundane.  Nothing is taken for granted; for you see when the better part of 5 months has left you strapped to a hospital bed going through the metabolic changes her body has endured, something so simple as making school lunches for the ones you love feels like striking gold.  When you have nothing but time, and are trapped in a room with no hopes of escape the world begins to look different and so by her own admission, it has changed.

As for me. I can’t wait until she comes home. My children are the most awesome individuals I have ever had the pleasure of knowing.  They screw up and make mistakes like any other children but they are mine.  But no matter how hard I try a child needs it mom.  There are only so many things I can do or say to make-believe everything is all right. But children are not stupid, they see the distress upon my face, the furrow in my brow, they feel when my temper has shortened and patience worn thin.  They adjust, they try, but stability still needs to reign for normalcy to occur.

It has been a good long stretch since I have seen her million dollar smile; understandably so, yet it is what I long for. To see her strong, to see her laugh, to see her ride a horse again, to see her walk a set of stairs without becoming winded and then saddened for the memory of what she used to be. To see her triumph.

As for me? As for me, I have decided my problems shouldnt matter. My complaints are small, may pains irrelevant, my loss of sleep inconsequential, my stress load manageable. For as for me, I don’t have cancer, I have a healthy body, therefore I have no complaints.

Today she smiled, I surprised her while dropping a patient off at the ER. Popping in for a just a minute! Walking down the corridor I came to her room, slowly turned the handle and walked in, she was propped up, texting. I said in an altered deep voice: Excuse me mam we are going to need to palpate your abdominal area, can you please undress for me. With a startle she jumped, seeing it was me, she smiled. A big giant smile! The most beautiful smile I had seen in a very long time. It made my day, it made her day as she was happy and surprised to see me.  It was only for a few minutes as my Engine company needed to go, but she smiled. It was radiant, it was warm, she was beautiful.

The face of Leukemia is smiling…

Which must mean Cancer is losing….

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http://www.myjavita.com/javabetty

 

Keep Calm, its only been five months..

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(I apologize for not having written in a while, and though this isn’t the best, it hopefully will at least allow you all to know where I am at mentally)

Over the last 5 months plenty of time has passed for me to ponder the ramifications associated with cancer.

Endless days and even longer nights leaving me sleepless, cold, worried, angry, happy, sad, confused, and exhausted.  Staring outwards into a twinkling nights sky, or straight down at my feet, lost, strained, asking God why.  Ramifications indeed..

I have held a little boy who doesn’t understand why his mom needs to be gone all the time.  One day at home then vanished into thin air, only to reappear 7-14 days later looking gaunt, pale and exhausted.  This recurring abnormality in domestic motherhood  just doesn’t compute in a 9 year olds brain.  He needs his dad alright but there is nothing like the hug his mom can bestow upon him and the smile that shines on his face afterwards.

I have driven to games, practices, and rodeos alone. Elicited the help of many wonderful caring friends who dropped what they were doing without so much as a whimper to ensure my family was cared for in my absence. Helped (not well, but hey who said I was smart) with homework, read books and had books read to me, washed laundry, cleaned dishes, scrubbed floors, toilets, windows and walls. Watered flowers, cared for dogs, horses, goats and chickens.  Folded laundry until 2 in the morning to ensure everyone had the right clothes for school, baseball, softball, hunting, etc…. And yes in a very strange bedraggled way I have cherished every minute.

Don’t get me wrong I performed all of those tasks prior to Jacy becoming sick as well, but they were shared tasks, and as with all relationships, some portions were performed by a certain partner because that partner excelled in one area over the other. Laundry has always been kind of my thing,(especially the folding portion) where as homework has always been Jacy’s (college grad/teacher and all).

Cancer has brought my children closer to me, helped me understand a little more of who they are as people.  From seeing them handle this situation with their mother, to the inspiring abilities shown by the ones who have stepped up their games around the house during this time.  Their interaction with the hoards of caring people stopping by our house or cornering them in a park, they have all made me proud. It has been a very hard, long frustrating road, but that road has also been filled with love, understanding, caring and commitment.

Cancer also filled my heart with fear.  For every great moment I shared with our children, there was fear that Jacy would never see those moments.  Fear our children would become used to their mom not being around, fear that she would not win this fight and the children would be left devastated, emotionless voids.  Never remembering their childhood has one filled with great adventures, laughter, family and fun, but of the time their mother contracted Leukemia and perished. No child should watch their mother die. My fear is entrenched in losing faith. Something I have always had, a security which has kept me strong my entire life.  Fear I will lose that feeling of always “knowing” what to do, how to behave, which direction to travel. Its faith which has kept me solid in those beliefs, it is my faith in God which has laid a foundation for me to build upon. Yet what if my faith eludes me? What then? More fear.

Up days and down days, days filled with forgetfulness, days filled with unexplainable irritability, days filled with an abundance of love, and days filled with dizziness, nausea and sleep.  These are the emotional stages Jacy travels through.  Highest of highs and lowest of lows.  It’s a hard ride for me at times and it’s always an even harder ride for her. Yet each day is one day closer to the treatments being over, her body trying to heal itself and our lives returning to some form of normalcy.

She came home from her last treatment on Sunday.  It was a day of joy. Only two more weeks of blood transfusions and testing, cumulating into a bone marrow draw somewhere during the third or fourth week.  Many days ahead filled with more fears, watching her body decline time after time until her blood cells, both white and red begin producing normally on their own.  Then waiting..

Fingers crossed, all goes well and Jacy will be able to finally claim to be cancer free! Over the next couple of years she will do her best to lead a relaxed, non stressed lifestyle and we will continue to pray Leukemia never returns.

5 months, five long and lonely months.  I miss my friend, my spouse, the woman I love.  To have her home and whole will indeed be a blessing.  For five months I have slept alone many nights and like the true idiot I am, I never once slept in the middle of the bed! Always on my little 6 inch wide portion, leaving her side (which is 3/4’s the mattress) undisturbed. Out of habit or respect, I do not know, but wow, what an idiot! I really blew an opportunity to really stretch out and sleep like a king! It’s no wonder I never got any sleep! Oh well I digress….

A light is truly at the end of the tunnel, we can see it. Keep a prayer for us please, prayer is a powerful thing and I believe it helps keep my faith alive and her healing powers strong.

More to come, God bless you all…

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A Man of Constant Sorrow

 

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I am sorry I havent written in a few weeks…

Life events have a way of giving or changing perspective, enlightening or suppressing emotions, giving one pause or setting one free.  This last week has been a complete disaster for me personally, leaving me overwhelmed, under the weather, lethargic, sad, and generally abandoned of feeling. Leukemia brings with it storied highs and tremendous lows, leaving its target families trying their best to muddle along somewhere in the middle.

The Saturday before last I toddled off to work as a very happy Ms. Jacy was home safe and sound, with children and a host of good friends checking in on her throughout the day. By noon a leukemia sized storm was brewing as she slowly began spiking a fever while feeling  a tad ill.  Refusing to admit something wasnt quite right (the hard-headed Cuban in her) she scoffed at my inquires and thwarted my meddling from afar. Finally after several rebuffed suggestions this woman of mine caved into peer pressure brought forth from one equally stubborn, very close family friend.  Against her own better judgement she climbed into said friends car and headed for the hospital.

Not a minute to soon

Upon arriving in the ER, blood was drawn, counts determined to be low and her fever began spiking at 102 degrees.  Jacy also began feeling a heightened pain around her Powerport insertion site in combination with redness and some swelling.  She called to give me an update, and as I worried about her well-being Jacy promptly cut me short, telling me to stay at work, all would be fine as our friend was staying with her.  What she didn’t know, what we couldn’t know was this was the beginning of a 6 day hospital stay that would bring more pain, tears, depression, anger, nausea, and hatred.  All emotions geared towards a level of care, a lack of information and a medication induced headache that would rival even the most severe pain ever experienced in her life.

Ms. Jacy had developed an infection within her port, most dangerous considering it is a direct line to her heart.  This brought an uneasy rest, fear and for a moment a feeling as though this just can’t go on any longer. Her days were filled with delirium, nausea and a much-needed (at times) drug induced sleep.

In a 6 day period I laid awake almost every night, worrying about her. Whether the infection was worse, whether or not the nurses (not chemo nurses mind you) had the right medications at the right time, are they administering blood transfusions at the right rates and have they given her the appropriate pre-meds prior to delivering the product. What are her plasma counts and if they are being taken into consideration why are her platelet counts so low? Yep every question I could think of running through my brain at all hours of the day and night.  Throw in taking care of the children, making sure they weren’t scared or worried about mommy being in the hospital again, ensuring the littlest one Parker understands whats happening since it seems every time he goes to school and mommy promises she will be home when he returns, she is not. Throw in household chores and our ranch (including one escaped horse at 3 in the morning), it was indeed a long sleepless week.

Now as I have said before, I wasnt alone. My barn people came through as always, allowing me the freedom to only do a limited amount of chores, and the flexibility to leave at the drop of a hat. Close family friends were always on other end of the line, asking, pleading for anything they could do to help.  And last but not least the constant array of giving people who have helped with dinner for our family.  I am incredibly thankful for you all..

But my brain, that dirty little Dura-matter, neurological, master piece floating inside this thick head.  If only I could shut it off for more than an hour, it would be grand.  If only I could turn off the constant questioning, turn down the vast medical knowledge that spins so freely inside.  Tricking me, scaring me, giving me panic attacks in the middle of the night! If only..

To sleep an entire night without nightmares, or wake up sweaty and cold reaching, feeling, to find no one there only to remember she is housed on floor two, room 213, alone, crying, sleeping, covering her head with ice and wondering why this is happening to her. Wanting to hold her, make it all go away, pretend it’s never happened. Is that too much to ask?

I am usually very positive, bringing the uplifting thoughts and prayers, trying my best to understand the meaning in any moment or given time. But  lately it is getting harder and harder.  Watching her cry, feeling her sorrow, asking herself; why me? Feeling utterly helpless.  I am a fixer, it is in my nature.  If there is a problem I fix it, I don’t wish to sit around and ponder a problem, cry over the problem, I just want to fix it! I can’t fix this! I can’t take it away! I can’t make her feel better about herself! I can’t help her to understand how beautiful she is, both inside and out! Cancer is chipping away at her confidence. Her kiss is still the same, her smile is still the same, her eyes still light up my heart! Cancer can’t possibly take those truths away! But it is trying very hard mentally.

So I can’t fix it, a hard pill to swallow, and with that, my sorrow continues.  

I was raised to believe a good husband protects his wife, shields her from ugly, sadness and pain.  That as her partner it is my job to carry this load. My responsibility to take her hand and lead her through this journey, minimizing the painful effects, bearing that burden.  But what you don’t know, what you don’t understand until you are lying in bed with a million medical “what if’s” running through your head is Cancer don’t give a fuck how you were raised. Cancer doesn’t care what your ethics are, or the belief system by which they are supported. Cancer only cares about cancer, tearing down its host from the inside out, one cell at a time. Cancer teases its victim and family with good days then pummels them with bad.  In the end, you lay there, ice on your head, missing your loved ones, crying because you are alone, listening to machines beep and click, while nurses poke you, prod at you, and take your vitals every 15 minutes, yet you remain trapped in a room you cannot leave.  Oh you want to leave, the door is right there, but that I.V. octopus has its tentacles forced deep down within your veins, keeping you from moving any farther than the restroom. Humiliated in an open back robe, red sock slippers and mesh net hospital underwear.  In the end cancer not only feels like its killing you, but as though its killing your spouse as well.

I know, its tearing me apart on the inside. Many days there is a smile upon my face, but deep down, I am not there, my sorrow holds strong as I think about my wife either in the hospital or at home, dizzy, forgetting things, some days struggling just to walk down the stairs. Cancer is a rat bastard and I hate it! I hate what it represents, I hate the chemotherapy (yes I blame Cancer but in reality it is really the chemotherapy) killing my wife slowly from the inside out, I hate that it is quietly wreaking havoc on our children, reaching out with its bony finger of gloom,  forever changing our lives.

I hate feeling like a man of constant sorrow.

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Nurse Betty….

20 things Nurse Betty will probably never hear from a Chemotherapy patient.

  1. Does this hospital gown make me look fat?
  2. Man I could eat a horse!
  3. Honey could you stop by the store to purchase me some conditioner?
  4. Now that was an awesome workout!!
  5. Zofran is for pussies!
  6. MMMMMMM-M hospital food again! Hell yeah!!!
  7. This hospital bed is great! I slept all night, like a rock!
  8. Go outside? Hell no I got all I need right here!
  9. Man I look great naked!
  10. I don’t like fresh fruit and vegetables anyways!
  11. Another line to put in nurse, the more the merrier!
  12. Whew! Cytarabine is such a rush!!!! Yah!
  13. I cannot wait for another bone marrow draw!
  14. Vomit-its what’s for dinner, and dessert and breakfast, and oh well you get the point..
  15. Will you please, take the needle out of my Power port and put it BACK in again? Please!
  16. I think you forgot to take my vitals.
  17. Can I please pee in the top hat at home! Please?
  18. I have no idea what my latest blood counts are?
  19. When I get outta here I’m going to Disneyland!!!!
  20. Man oh man I love that I haven’t pooped in three days!

If you have gone through, are going through or are in the midst of Chemotherapy then you know exactly what each and every one of those statements mean to you, personally.

My whole life I have always tried to find the humor in everything. I have too, it is my coping mechanism. I am the guy who can go a really, really long time being yelled at, put down, struggling under an emotional burden and laughter always gets me through, allowing me the opportunity to push my feelings down! Farther and farther, deeper and deeper, because hey, they are my feelings after all and expressing them is just a waste of time right?

So with laughter, nervous, caddy, giggling, straining laughter these feelings of helplessness and grief, struggle and heartache, get pushed farther and farther into a never-ending emotional caldron! hee, nervous hee, ha twitchy ha…..

Don’t worry, once its full down there, and it heats up a bit I’ll let it all out! I promise, scouts honor! I mean all it takes is a certain word or situation and them Whammy! My emotional toil will spill forth like Vesuvius blowing its lid, burning, maiming, damning all around me into an eternity of fear.

Scared you didn’t I?

Seriously, we are very blessed for this sense of humor we have retained throughout this whole event. I am calling it an event because in the grand scheme of things that is all this is-an event. We will look back upon it someday and laugh, probably cry a whole bunch too, but I am sticking with laughter!

My wandering point with all this drivel. (besides hopefully making you smile a bit) Wake up everyday and be thankful. Your troubles are not so big. Money comes and money goes, jobs are a source of income, not a source of heartache and pain. Your children should bring joy to your life, no matter how troublesome they may become. Love them, hold them and try to understand what they may be going through, then show them the right way to deal with life’s little inconsistencies.  Tell people you love, how you feel, tell people who inspire you, bring meaning to your life just what an important role they play in your personal growth and sanity.  Everyday is a gift for you to open, unwrap, be thankful for this gift and enjoy.  Remember it is never to late.

Even when Jacy and I don’t see eye to eye, even when my selfishness helps me to relocate a foot into my mouth. I love her. She is mine and I am hers.  No amount of stress related to this family centered catastrophe will change that! Is it fair? No. Do I accept it? Yes. I hate this disease for what it has done to her, not me, but her.  No person deserves to go through what she is enduring.

When she lies beside me (hospital or home) I don’t see Jacy the chemotherapy patient, I see Jacy, my wife, my partner, my love. When she places her head onto my shoulder and closes her eyes, there is no cancer, there is no gloom and doom, there is only us, our relationship, the warmth radiating from within our friendship, there is peace. All the reasons we married are pushed to the surface for us to embrace, hold in front of our faces, relishing, reminding us there is no mountain we cannot climb, no obstacle we cannot conquer, together. Staring at the ceiling, gently stroking the soft baldness that is her scalp, I am at ease, she is at ease and she sleeps. It’s not much, but its mine, all mine, our little moments together.

It is love….

 

 

 

 

The gift…

Life as of late is holding me down. A weight upon my chest, a hand-held defiantly to my face, paranoia, fear, sadness, exhaustion all playing upon my emotions. Some days are harder than others, most days tolerable, my fortitude is strong, a resolve steadfast, I awake each morning and start all over again.

My wife is worried that my plate is to full, she see’s it written across my face. The new lines forming upon my brow, a redness to my cheeks, a constant itch that travels across my head, face, chest, neck and shoulder when stress becomes intolerable.

Conversations change, today is a “good” day while 12 hours later, no conversation at all, left staring, wondering what I would do if she didn’t come out of the ER alive? Laughter becomes fun, dark humor is everywhere, trying, straining, yearning to pretend this is not happening. A ceiling is my new meditation portal, alone in bed, lying dead straight in the middle, wondering, worrying. Past times would find me reveling in a moment like this, now ashamed to be taking up a portion that is her place.

Why? Why does life go like this for some, yet flows so effortlessly for others? Never was I blessed with any one talent that allowed me the luxury of standing apart from a crowd. My entire life has been marginalized, left in the “average” column.  Average size, average intelligence, average GPA, average looking, average job performance, average minor successes.

Yet for some reason I feel as though God has blessed me with a gift. A gift others would most likely refuse, kick to the curb, drop and run away screaming. I am willing to admit, when bestowed upon me it was not an easy one to accept. But being a man of faith, I knew no matter how hard I fought, in the end it was mine. And so, it has come to pass that with this gift, I have earned a few extra lines upon my face, some unwanted grey hairs, an inability to sleep some nights along with an overall fear of what may lie around the very next corner.

This gift it seems also brought traits I never knew existed within me. Care, compassion, love, patience and understanding. Not just for myself, but for all forms of life. Imagine a gift so powerful it opens your eyes wider than ever before, it ignites your senses to an almost raw irritating state yet you are thankful for the feeling. Imagine being able to stand, while all crumbles around you, seeing an alternative, an answer, a future destination. Imagine knowing when the day is through, no matter what has been thrown emotionally towards you, deep inside you will awaken the next morning to do it all over again! That is what this gift has become and I wish I knew how to share, but I just can’t.

I carry the souls, the faces, the lives of all who have perished before me. Those souls have built me into a stronger man over the years, stronger than I ever was or could have been in my youth. From every response, medical aid, vehicle accident or fire that have gone badly awry; to the losses of those closest around me, ones that I love more than most could imagine. I carry those days, those moments, those instances of life disappearing before us in my head, in my heart, a scar upon my soul. Some moments come with pictures that can never be erased, tales that can never be told, slivers in time trapped for eternity within my dome. Family members never knowing, never seeing, never having to see the imminent demise of those so truly loved. No horrid pictures permanently scarring their psyche, no electrifying screams, no tantric goodbyes. Over 19 years I have done my very best to absorb, deflect, and care about those who have lost someone. Carrying that burden has been my privilege. God allowed me this wonderful gift.

And so now the gift hits home. What better human being to handle this very situation than myself.  I have been trained well, prepared for all contingencies through mentorship and experience.

Yes I am tired, yes my worrisome self is working overtime, standing on high alert, yes my heart stops, skips a beat every time she proclaims not feeling well or becomes clammy and pale.  But my gift churns onward, allowing me an ability to focus on the good things and recognize in the end all will be ok. Teaching me sometimes one needn’t seek all the answers, but instead too know deep down in their heart things will be fine.  My gift tells me there are those in much worse shape than we, and to be thankful for all we have before us. Constantly reminding me how precious life truly is and to awaken every morning with a smile, because you can.

So as my wife worries about me, as my friends ponder over my ability to handle this very situation, as our own parents fret over the unknown, do not worry, like a ball player riding the pine all season long, all I ask is this, put me in coach, give me a chance, this gift could possibly be the one thing I am actually good at! Becoming the Abbott to her Costello, Jerry Lewis to her Dean Martin, the Sigfried to her Roy, and then when my time comes, my moment here on earth is finished,  I will finally be a success and wont have lived an uncaring, callous, self-centered, marginalized, average life…

Now I think its time for some sleep.

Goodnight Jacy I love you and thank God for you everyday… Relax, all will be just fine..

 

 

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