Climbing life’s mountain. 

Woke up this morning and strolled around our property despite the 30+ mph winds. There is so much that needs to be done, it sometimes feels incredibly overwhelming. Taking care of this place, our children and my wife weighs heavy on me all the time. Yet this morning is different. Yes the amount of work gave a bit of panic, but then I looked across the way and spotted our dirty ole horse trailers, still hooked to their respective trucks, I paused, I smilied and I felt really great.

You see all to often we look at our lives as a continual shit pile (mountain) we need to climb. (Myself very much included) What we don’t see or fail to recognize are the smaller climbs we need to make first before we reach the top. We as humans naturally tend to complain which then becomes a habit so we complain about everything. Before long complaining is as normal as putting on our pants (which is a complaint because damn they make me look fat) and it remains the norm. It’s then that we struggle to make a change as we have decided enough is enough. (Myself also included in this category) I don’t understand why we become this way, or why it seems there are some who always see the positive. I guess it just is the human way. 

Today I didn’t feel that way. Because today part of me realized we have been traversing those smaller climbs all along. Sometimes those smaller climbs just take so darn long you lose sight of the mountain. 

All I could think about while staring at our parked traveling circus was our kids and a wife who against her own advice packed up her best clothes, a supply of all her medications, her portable oxygen machine in case of emergency, threw on a wig to hide her once again balding head, then set out with a beautiful, giant smile on her face and a super positive attitude for an entire weekend of rodeoing! She had such a great time surrounded by her friends-our friends. She was able to finally witness in person her youngest son throw a steer, her daughter run barrels and poles and her middle son bulldog. She was no longer alone at home stuck in bed unable to move, waiting for me to send a video. She will undoubtedly pay for it today, as her body I am sure will protest but the price of admission was well worth it. 

The oldest son is in college and doesn’t partake in our traveling side show. He has a life of his own, training hunting dogs, fishing, hunting and counting down the days until he can test then become employed with either an out of state troopers or in state CHP position. We are blessed to have him around to keep an eye on things while we travel. He of all of us has steadily chipped away at the mountain before him with tenacity and will power. 

Our middle son has had a rough year on the rodeo trail and although he doesn’t see it this way, I think it is good for him. He has always been in the hunt. Always fighting for first position. This year not so much. His skills are there, his attitude when he nods his head once backed into the box is solid. He helps every bulldogger who crosses that line into the arena. And although he doesn’t feel like he has anything to show for all his hard work and positive attitude I think quite the contrary. 

God is teaching him patience and humility.

His time will come. He needs to remember we are climbing that mountain in small segments. This is one of them. His mother and I are very proud of him, we only want the best for him. And although he thinks at times we are to hard on him, or we don’t understand,​​ I know one day he will look back and thank the lord for all that was provided.

I smile at the thought of our daughter and how far she has come. Once terrified of going fast on a horse she is slowly gaining ground on her fears. She loves nothing more than being at the rodeo with her giant second family. Each rodeo she performed a little better and that is all anyone can ask for. Right when we thought it was all over for her this year the good lord through a good friend blessed us with the best horse possible for her to improve her skills. Our daughter has grit, and when she wants something she gets after it. Her mother and I can’t wait to see what she accomplishes in the off season. 

My smile broadens at the thought of our youngest yesterday. A boy who once screamed and cried: NO RODEO, I HATE RODEO. Running around receiving high fives from all who watched him drop a steer in roughly 4 seconds! 

Parker rode horses every day, then during a  jr. rodeo season he was bucked off three times with three trips to the hospital. After the third trip he said no more. It took over a year to get him riding again, this was his mountain to climb. He cried every time and after riding a few of our horses, my horse Tank became the only one he would almost willingly climb aboard. Then unexpectedly Tank died. His mountain to climb just got bigger. 

Three quarters of the way through the rodeo season the lad still hadn’t tossed a steer in competition. He was feeling discouraged. Then last month he not only tossed one, but two!!! After a great Bulldogging seminar and some more practice his timing was coming together. We started talking about the possibility that if he could throw both steers at next months (this last weekend) rodeo he may just barley qualify for state. He became excited, and the light and love for something he has accomplished both on his own and with the help of his brother began to grow. 

Yesterday that’s exactly what he did! By throwing that one steer he qualified for state. To say he is excited is an understatement! He cannot wait for another opportunity to throw steers! He looks up to his older brothers, the oldest for fishing and the one for Bulldogging. To follow in their footsteps makes his chest swell with pride. Knowing that in two years he will need to bulldog from a horse, he is looking forward to riding again. 

His mountain just got a little smaller. 

So I guess what I am trying to say is we ALL have mountains to climb in our life. From our grandparents to our children. Complaining about them is fine, it lets us express our frustrations, deal with our emotions and relieve the pressure associated with realizing there are problems. But in the end, if we do nothing about anything other than complain all the time we miss the beauty of watching those who have figured out just how to chip away at that mountain of troubles one hill at a time, we miss out on the shared elation as one day those troubles are gone and a beautiful view from the summit can be seen. 

Just a thought from a windy morning walk. 

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God, could I get a little help? Please……

I have a confession to make.

I think I am mourning the loss of my wife.

Over the last couple of weeks, the two of us have held some very emotional and poignant conversations in regards to her health, my mental health and our families future.

She is by far the strongest woman I know. Her courage and tenacity is second to none. This shit sandwich she’s been handed and forced to eat time and again would leave most average humans gagging while pleading for the feeding to stop. Yet she bites down, grits her teeth and trudges through every mouthful!

I try to remind myself that God will never give us anything we can’t handle.

The other day during a conversation with her doctor she told him she’d had enough! It was time to either get busy living or get busy dying!

Think about that statement! A mashing of words spoken with the seriousness of an appellate court judge! No bullshit, no grins or giggles, no carefully chosen not wanting to hurt anyone else’s feelings words! This is a line in the sand and no one had better fucking cross it! For the first time in a long time I didn’t laugh, find a joke or even smile a nervous smile. She was making a stand and if you truly know my wife then you know never to cross her when she makes a stand!

And I think once again: God will never give us anything we can’t handle.

The last couple of days have been harder then normal. My irregular heartbeat is back, (which always leaves me panicking) my stomach is on fire and the head is pounding pretty hard. These are all secondary reactions to an emotional outpouring trapped deep within this sack of skin. I don’t know how to adequately express what I’m feeling or even describe it’s magnitude which tears my innards apart! Three long years I have been holding it together! Three long years I worry about tommorow and what it may bring! Three long years have been the worst juggling act I could ever have performed, always feeling like I am one hand movement from dropping all the balls.

Three long years and I continue to think: God will not give us anything we cant handle.

In that time I have gained 25 pounds, developed sleep apnea which leaves my chest and head hurting every morning and I have cried more times than I care to remember! Seriously cried like a baby! I’ve cried in the truck, the barn, while working a horse, after waking up from a nightmare to find she isn’t there only to quickly realize she’s at her dads for treatment! I have cried while blogging, in my dorm at work, after a call with a cancer patient, while reading a book and even while taking a shower.

To be honest I cry at everything nowadays! Like some stupid, weak, lovelorn teenager!! Show me a stupid animal video! Hell here comes the waterworks! A love story movie. Tears! Wedding videos! You guessed it more water!! And you know what makes it even worse?

I am angry as hell, looking for someone to blame and yet I continually tell myself; God will not give us anything we cannot handle!

That anger leads me to yell at our kids way more than I should, I yell at drivers on the road and sometimes I daydream someone will cut me off so we can fight! Senselessly hoping not to win, but instead to feel the stinging pain of loss. I know it’s wrong and because I know it’s wrong I work really hard at tempering my emotions!! But this long term tempering is wearing me the fuck out!! All political rants get deleted from my FB feed so I don’t get angry. If an argument starts I do my best to walk out of the room or tune it out by acting dead or stupid, much like a fainting goat! I have figured out how to curb all this anger when cornered by using a tried and true method of striking first with wicked biting sarcasm! But sometimes that bites me in ass when I take it to far and then hurt someone else’s feelings! I can’t win! Developing these weird coping mechanisms are only piling more worry and angst on top of an already over loaded emotional mountain! Yet I keep doing it because going through this joint struggle over the last three years I have found there are more important thing for me to focus on in life! Like waking up, or breathing!

And there I am wondering if God is really giving me what I can handle or if it’s all a big fucking lie!

Today really brought it home for me and it hit me harder than before. A friend posted a picture of my beautiful wife from five years ago and through all my inspirational quotes, kind words and such I realized why I am in this strange place mourning for the loss of my wife. Not that she is gone in the traditional sense of the term, because she obviously isn’t, but for who she used to be! That woman, that confident, beautiful woman who could teach 30 kids in classroom, come home and ride horses with me and the kids, whip up a dinner from absolutely nothing, then toss her hair into a pony tail, throw on some clean clothes and let me strut her sexy ass out on the town!

I hate what the drugs have done to her, I hate what this disease has done to her, I hate that everyday she wakes up and no longer recognizes the person looking back in the mirror and sobs. She’s had me cover all the mirrors in the house so she doesn’t have to look at herself and that makes me mad at God. I hate that she shakes so bad she can’t hold simple items and there is nothing I can do help! I hate that she struggles to get up, walk or climb stairs! She was once a toned, hard fitness instructor and now is a frail version of her former self! I hate that I feel like I am failing her, and I can’t do a thing to make any of this any easier in any way! I hate that she doesn’t know how beautiful I still think she is or how she continually stresses over some imaginary thing that should drive us apart!

I hate, I’m angry so I hate some more and I think again; God will not give us anything we can’t handle.

The realization that I am also mourning the loss of OUR life together weighs like an anvil around ones neck. I go to parent meetings alone, doctor appointments alone, after school activities alone and rodeo with the kids alone. She is miserable because she can’t be there for her children and it is a horrible heavy guilt for her and I am torn up because I can’t imagine how that must feel as a mother. Now, I don’t mind being alone, it’s good to be alone every now and again, just not all the time. Thankfully I am surrounded by some of the most wonderful, caring families anyone could ever ask for and they treat my family as if we were part of their families! Rodeo families are hands down the best in the whole world!!! I seriously look forward to seeing these people every month! But at the end of the day, when everyone goes there separate ways, I sit alone, in the trailer, pondering what life would be like, if Jacy had never gotten sick. All of the fun she is missing out on and how guilty I feel when I forget for a moment and start to have fun myself.
Then I’m mad it’s not me. Jacy is something special. I am not. She has done almost everything right her entire life. I have not, in fact I spent most of my early life doing just the opposite. She is kind to everyone, I can be a bit of an asshole. So why? Why has God burdened her with this punishment and left me alone? Why is God putting this upon our family, our children, our friends and relatives? Is it truly because God thinks we can handle it? What kind of bullshit is that? Does that mean people who hold no struggles are weak in Gods eyes so they get a free pass?? That makes no damn sense!

I always say we need to have faith. Believe in our faith. I believe in God. I believe there is a reason all this is happening. I believe we are being tested. I believe there is a plan and I hope God reveals it soon for as of now I can no longer see the Forrest for the trees.

The fact is pride is what leads us to believe we can conquer all without help or faith. It is how this simple statement I have repeated and lamented over continues to come forth.

“God will not give us anything we cannot handle.”

In reality it reads: No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13)

The way I read this is as such: God WILL give us all more than we can handle. He will challenge us, challenge our ability to retain faith and he will forgive us our temptations.

I believe my faith is strained right now. I believe we (my wife especially) have been given way more than we can handle. I believe the temptation to just quit is great.

So…..

God, could you give us just a little help? Please….

I’m not sure how much more of what you are giving us we can all take.

(Fuck I’m crying again)

Love is something special

Yesterday I sat with my wife on her hospital bed. Leaning into me we listened to others talking in the room and I staring longingly at her once again realized I am a very lucky man.

It is very easy to fall in love. The world is filled with interesting, beautiful people who intrigue and excite our lust for closeness. Each person’s definition of love is different, thereby allowing varying levels of intimacy amongst those parties involved. There is love acquired over time, love by design, and love at first sight. There are people who know a particular person is the one for them right away and while pining away for their affection develop love through mutual interests. It takes a special person to not only peak those interests but keep them thriving. A person who is willing to walk side by side supporting and surviving every possible situation one could develop or live through over time. For you see, love is not for the faint of heart or quitters.

There she sits. Yesterday while staring at her it came to me that I missed her more than I let on at times. Everyone at the hospital gets to hear her laughter, see her smile and relish in her constant silliness. All the things I took for granted or at times bothered me because of my own selfish moodiness I now longed to have back in my life on a daily basis. I was actually jealous of their ability to bathe in her good Karma.

Today someone sent me a picture of an actress on a current show (I won’t give the pleasure of repeating its name because this show is sheer poppycock) and stated she looked just like my wife! I dismissed it and then after coming back to this picture three, four or five times it dawned on me they were right! Just like that my selfishness missed her hair, her eyebrows, her eye lashes, and her round face with make-up, wearing a slinky dress on date night or goofy overalls on the way to school! I miss the way she smells, her choice of lotions always leaving her skin smooth and soft. I miss her holding me tight while dancing, whispering in my ear “I love you”. I looked at the picture of this actress over and over and I yearned for the wife who at one time didn’t have Leukemia.

I am a very lucky man

Most people felt that way at one time in their relationships but having grown used to their partners they no longer feel a longing deep inside for their significant other. Time, life, work, children and school have robbed them of time they should have spent with each other, instead creating a divide and conquer relationship which ultimately leads to a divided relationship.

I long for her to come home. I hate leaving the hospital, I want to stay there all the time. To hear her laugh between coughing and vomiting. To watch her smile even though the news she has been told sucks. To hold her hand even when she feels as though she is a thousand degrees. To walk with her down the hallways even though she must have help from a nursing assistant. To sit and eat lunch like two old people with no teeth! She with soup and me complaining there isn’t enough candy in the drawer.

In the past we too were a divide and conquer relationship! I divided to conquer and she wanted us to handle things together. She never gave up on me even though there were many times she could have, many times I may have needed to talk her into one more chance, she calmly continued loving me. Stubborn and tough she never ever gave up, she always knew that even though I was going to fight, kick and scream, I would come out the other side, wiser, gentler and more giving.

That is why it’s my time to be there for her! I know she is kicking and screaming on the inside! So I keep her going, telling her it’s going to be all right while showing her how to remain calm, think things through and understand there is a better tomorrow for her waiting. When this is over and she comes home she will have known I never gave up on her, I calmly helped her to understand it is ok to feel sad, ok to feel frustrated and ok to want this all to end as long as you vent it all out and then restart towards the finish line. She is fighting hard, but she is not fighting alone. She is not superwoman, she did not become the fighter she is today without losing a few rounds in life. She will come home knowing I love her with all my heart and soul, and I am thankful for all she has given me.

Our lives will never be the same. Leukemia has made sure of that. But what our life will be has yet to be written. An open page awaits us and as much as I long for the wife of days gone by, I cannot wait to see what life has in store for us as a team, a couple, as friends who are lucky enough to be married to one another.

Like I said; it is easy to fall in love, staying in love is something very special indeed.

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It was a very good day..

mom and parkerStrolling into the quad my daughter, son and I all turn the corner to see Jacy taking a breather from walking during physical therapy. Standing quietly we wait a second as to not startle anyone. Jacys mom see’s us and starts squealing with joy. Mom is happy. Out of breath, mask covering her face you can see smile lines around her eyes as they struggle to fixate on two small silhouettes. Our children each take turns hugging her then wander over to the rolling chest of body isolation gear to begin the arduous struggle associated with a 10 and 11 year old trying to don these items. After a few minutes and what appears to be a 3 ½ foot high stellar version of Tommy Boy’s Fat guy in a little coat, my son puts both hands in the air with medical gloves on and says; doctor? Yep it’s going to be one of those visits.

Once inside Ms. Jacy’s room she claps her hands with joy as her children lay a little more love on their long lost momma. Questions about school, life, sports, rodeo, the ranch all flow freely as a mother needs to know exactly how her children are faring without her. Yes I have kept her abreast of every activity, function and behavioral (both good and bad) condition associated with these two monkeys. But it means so much more hearing it directly from their mouths. She is beaming.

Jacy lets the children know how happy she is they are there, gives them a simple version of her current condition and apologizes for the fact she cannot see them very well. Her eyes are back on the blurry side which makes for a lot of squinting while searching for each person’s location through vocals. Both children ask a few more questions followed by laughter and silly kid actions, afterwards things begin to settle down. Good thing as there isn’t much room for horseplay.

Now I remember being a kid and a hospital room was the last place I would ever want to be! Parents telling you not to touch anything, to quit making so much noise, to stop touching each other and above all else quit fidgeting in those chairs! Today would be no different as most of those words came out of our collective mouths at one point or another. Yet they smiled, acted as though a behavioral modification had just occurred while finding a new way to fidget or make sounds.

A suggestion was made for a trek outside and with her nurses blessing we loaded up then traveled to the fountain. The fountain is a wonderful meeting place. Water flowing, plenty of shade and ducks traveling around unmolested as if they owned the joint. We almost didn’t make it there as while pushing Jacy through the lobby doors in her wheelchair the I.V. stand became ensnared in carpet almost crashing to the ground! Fast hands by both Jacy’s mom and a nice lady who happened to come through the door at that exact moment saved the day! Jacy was a little frazzled after that interaction but a few deep breaths and her anxiety quickly waned. After all when you are this close to the outside as a prisoner you don’t let one little bump in the road keep you from freedom.

The kids ran around, the adults chatted away, at one point her mom went to get her a paper mask so we could hear her better as she spoke. Parker would come by just to get a hug and say hello, then run off to play with his sister. We had 30 minutes and we were going to make the very best of it.

Back in the room Jacys mom said goodbye, spreading more love on the munchkins’ and a big old hug for me. Once her mom left we all settled in, found a movie and silence fell across the hospital room. An hour and half went by, not a word was uttered, and we just sat there, like old times, at home, watching a movie together as a family. It wasn’t the most perfect of settings, it wasn’t the best TV or the highest quality sound system. But we were all together, it was perfect.

It is always hard to leave. When I am here alone it pains me to walk out the door, but when the kids are here it is doubly as hard to say goodbye. They are all good sports about it, their mom no matter how hard she tries to look positive always has a little sadness showing around the eyes. I cannot imagine how she feels, what is going through her mind, how her heart must break every time they close the door behind them. One week to three weeks, that’s how long it is between visits from her children. She gets me two or three times a week then her step-mom, mom, sisters and father fill in the remaining gaps. A virtual revolving door of family making sure Jacy is never alone. But your children, they hold a special place in your heart and they definitely hold a special strength when it comes to the healing process.

By the time we got home they had been asleep in the car for quite a while. When we walked out the door of Jacy’s room she too was fast asleep within moments of our departure. Looks like everyone got all the love they needed. Squeezed, kissed and hands held to exhaustion.

It was a very good day indeed.

Hi ho, Hi ho, its off to work I go…..

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It felt strange pulling into the parking lot and I have no idea why. I have stopped by a hundred times over the last few months, yet walking into the building it was as if a giant weight had been lifted from my shoulders. Moving effortlessly down the hallway with the lightness in my step of Danny Kaye (only us old timers will understand that reference). I opened the door to our day room and was instantly greeted with the boisterous banter of a warm firehouse. The back and forth one liners that are often associated with this type of setting are what in-house legends are made of. My smile broadened.

Individually guys would walk up to say welcome back, I greeted them with: hey I am the new guy James, nice to meet you, division sent me down so anyone know where I can put my stuff? A couple good chuckles were had, I grabbed a hot cup of jo and sat in a very familiar chair. I was home again, with people who have supported me as only family could. Sighing a very heavy sigh, at that very moment all felt right with the world.

Friday was my first day back in the firehouse and I was shocked at how much I missed it, all of it! The chores, the calls and of course the guys! Two months are a long time to be away from work, let alone people you consider your second family. But here I was, knocking the dust from my helmet, going through my turnouts and checking all my gear. I was smiling, actually smiling and feeling the warmth that came with that smile. Gone for a few moments was all the worries associated with my life, it felt great.

That feeling was short-lived as before we started our day I gathered everyone around to give them an update on Jacys condition and where we were in regards to treatment. It was an awkward silent time. I understood. What do you say when a co-worker/friend gives you that much information? They all feel my pain and understand it is very difficult for me to adequately express those feelings while meeting everyone else’s emotional needs. But one thing is always a constant when it comes to this family, each one has my back, as I would have theirs in a similar situation.

We ran calls, did chores and by mid-day ended up downtown for the annual Downtown Business Association Halloween hand-out! How fun! Handing out candy to hordes of kids all dressed up in their Halloween costumes! Meeting people, talking with kids, joking around and generally having a good, old-fashioned normal day, as if nothing else was happening in my life.

That night was hard. I didn’t sleep well, tossing and turning in my now unfamiliar bed. When I did sleep I awoke confused, disoriented and afraid. Worried that something bad was about to happen, scared that my kids needed me, panicking over an inability to just drop things and leave in case the phone did ring.

The second day was fine and the second night not much better. My worrying seemed to be getting stronger, I consoled myself that there were only 6 or so hours left and that my children can make it without me. I have raised them to take of themselves and I know Cody will do a great job! Hell in the 1800’s dad would leave the 8-year-old in charge of the 6-year-old for a week! It all turned out ok most of the time, right?

When I got home the next morning my overall feeling was of relief. I had made it through a 48 hour shift without losing my mind. I had proved to myself it could be done, that letting go of some of my worries must happen. My heart was filled with joy over the reunion of my crew and the interesting calls we had run during our rotation. It felt good to have my mind and body back in a normal groove.

I spoke with Jacy this evening. Her prognosis is still the same as things haven’t changed much. She still smiles and see’s the positive outcome although we have started talking more about the “what if’s” with her doctor. I don’t like “what if’s”. They weigh heavy on my soul, leaving me nervous and gun-shy. Once the lights go down late at night after I say a prayer or two the “what if’s” start gnawing away at my insides. Eating at me, taunting me into believing they are real, testing my faith. It’s like they are a broken/scratched record playing over and over again in my head. Certain nights they bring me to tears as I drift off to sleep. I awake several hours later in a cold sweat, face and pillow soaked as they play out their dirty little mind games while I dream. I don’t particularly care for being the unwilling participant in these dreams so I struggle to stay awake staring at the ceiling and wondering why?

Faith is a tricky bitch. You must hear any and all negatives to fully understand and reinforce any positives. To have faith is to attest unconditionally that through faith only one outcome can become a reality. In turn you must suffer through many negative thoughts processes to achieve faith. You must sort them into categories, holding onto only those entrenched in reality. Once they are in a neat little folder wedged inside your mind you can proceed to judgement though careful, faith driven evaluation of any situation. The tricky part is understanding the importance of negatives while never allowing them to overtake your positivity based upon faith. Some nights that is harder than others.

Tonight as I write, the empty sound of my house is deafening. The dull drone of silence beats loudly in my ears. It is time to go to bed and I tire of my best friend not being there when I turn off the lights. Like a small child clutching their blanket or bear to keep away evil spirits at night; how I wish my wife was here so that just one night I could clutch her while sleeping peacefully, be protected instead of the protector, guarded from evil dreams continually questioning my faith. Only then could I awaken the next morning to find this was nothing more than a really long, extremely bad nightmare.

But that is not to be so I toss and turn some more, constantly fighting faithless thoughts in the dark while counting down the minutes until I can hold her again.

I love you honey, please come home soon….

She shines…

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You pass by her or someone just like her on any given day. A smile, a wave, a kind hello. Sunlight radiates from within, bringing warmth and security to all who surround her. A light, a ray of hope, a beacon in the fog, an uplifting hand when you are down. She sees everyone and everything, never letting even the smallest of details, events, emotions, or troubles pass by her watchful eye. Why? Because she genuinely cares. Her storms can rage like the mightiest of hurricanes soon settling, defusing until rest comes upon a peaceful shore. Sunbeams litter the landscape in its aftermath revealing a renewal of all surrounding her. Of course this is what she wanted all along, for she knows exactly how to get her way.

Until now.

Jacy has been tempted time and again with promises of freedom only to have her body veto. She remains in room 41, locked away from the world she knows, the family she loves, the friends she adores. Doctors come and doctors go, all with the same agenda, to heal this woman and send her home where she belongs. It is not for a lack of trying, or because they wish to keep her secluded for scientific purposes, on the contrary, like any professional athlete these doctors hate to lose. They take their jobs very seriously and it shows. To make matters worse for this crew of cranial geniuses, they just so happen to like her. There isn’t a one of them that doesn’t like my wife and do you know why? Well first of all if you do know her personally then that was a moronic question. But if you don’t, if you don’t know my wife then reference the above material. For it is all true.

The other day when I arrived her room was filled with attending doctors and students. They yammered on about good news here and not so good news there, how if one thing happens we may have other options and if another happens how options would be limited. Covering bacteria, viruses, internal bleeding, and further medications. Standing in the corner gazing upon the herd like a pie eyed cowboy it amazed me that with all this information she still smiled and said; thank you. She made jokes about the bad and quipped about the good. She never ceases to amaze me.

Her light, her inner light is always trying to shine! The internal batteries may be faltering a bit but she somehow generates enough power to smile and say thank you, to everyone or anyone that will listen! She strains to speak at times but it doesn’t stop her. She is fighting so very hard to live, to move past this episode in her life, to come home and see her children grow up! Having now been incarcerated inside E block for 127 days, she inspires me daily. I hurt all over, I can’t sleep, I am eating but not well, yet no matter how sorry for myself I begin to feel all I need to think about is the woman who gave herself to me, withered away to nothing but skin and bones still smiling, still saying thank you, still striving to make someone’s, anyone’s day with kindness and love.

Meningitis

Meningitis is a relatively rare infection that affects the delicate membranes — called meninges (men-in’-jeez) — that cover the brain and spinal cord. Bacterial meningitis can be deadly and contagious among people in close contact.

Viral meningitis tends to be less severe and most people recover completely without specific therapy.

Fungal meningitis is a rare form of meningitis and generally occurs only in people with weakened immune systems.

Yep that’s where we are right now. Meningitis, some bacteria formed upon one of her heart valves, a still bleeding bladder and now to make things more interesting she has begun having bloody stool. Today I believe she needed 5 blood transfusions. Every time this woman gets a leg up, something kicks the good leg out from under her. Two weeks ago we were laughing and counting down the days until outpatient was achieved. We are currently sliding backwards. I am not sure if we are back to square one, but it sure feels close. It has to feel like an impossible mountain to climb for my wife, yet she rarely shows it.

Monday when I arrived after listening to the where too’s and what fore’s spewed forth from the doctors with delicacy as to not upset or misinform I took a seat. Eyes heavy from a lack of sleep, brow furrowed after looking at my wife’s soft, doped up face. My shoulders slumped with the weight of it all and I did what any other rational husband would do at a time like this. I passed out. Yep that’s right! No sooner did I exchange pleasantries with everyone was I crumpled up like a used napkin left wedged into the furniture. Saliva dripping from my mouth, my body off kilter hard to starboard, barley able to stay in the chair. An hour later I awoke to see family members leave as my wife moved in and out of narcotic consciousness. Making my way over to Jacys big green auto reclining chair I rendered a hello and a kiss on her forehead. She asked how I was, I replied tired. She mumbled me too and both of us passed out again. This time for three and half hours. Somedays it’s all too much.

She contracted a fever that day and it started a ball rolling that just pushed her even further away from outpatient care. I was informed this morning she had in fact contracted meningitis as described above. What the hell? Why can’t she get a break? Why can’t her body just let this all happen so we can take her home? How long do you think her sun will continue to shine kept captive in the confines of E wing?

I worry about so much, every day about so many damn things. But of all the things I am worried about, I worry most about her ability to stay positive and keep those rays of hope alive. To shine brightly, not letting all of these repeated setbacks snuff out that light. I am so terribly worried..

I pray God knows what he is doing..

I think I may have just gone crazy?

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They say the struggle is half the battle. The lord will present you with nothing you cannot handle. Anything worth having is worth fighting for. It is better to try and fail than to have never tried at all. To live a life without challenges is to have never lived. (Yes I was paraphrasing)

Personally I have always felt; to remain positive, even when not showing it outwardly is to shine light upon your darkest of moments. When I am down I always remember that and it helps me to realign my thought process. I am not sure who said it, if it’s a combination of a few philosophies or one day I just made it up. But it is my go too.

Today Monday 19th 2015. I am officially tired of everything. Nothing, not even my go too is working. I am sure this is a passing feeling as I have never been one to wallow in my own despair. But today I just can’t seem to get a grasp on things.

I am going to complain, something I hate, but please allow me this moment. I need to get it out, I always do better writing than talking so if you’ll forgive me this (deep breath) here goes.

I didn’t sleep last night-AGAIN! My head hurt so bad I wanted to scream and whenever I did fall asleep it was filled with horrible nightmares centered on my family and wife. My brain won’t shut off! It is going a hundred miles an hour, all the time! I lay there constantly wondering if I am doing a good enough job or if I am failing my children? If so how do I inspire them, motivate them, move them without becoming frustrated! Last night after a long weekend with two of my kids turning into complete shits, I lost it with one of them. I was two steps away from becoming my father which is a condition I fight with daily. I don’t want that for them, it just shows them the easy way out is to yell, become intimidating and that is not how I wish to raise them. I needed to walk away into the darkness of our ranch and in the same fashion as how I work a horse, ponder just what I AM DOING WRONG first before pointing the finger completely in their direction.

My life has been centered on this family and my job for 19 years. What many people don’t realize is when you are accepted into the fire service, the fire service becomes your family as well. So I carry a huge amount of guilt for being gone from work as long as I have as though I have let them down as well. Some mornings I will stop by after dropping off kids just to sit and have a cup of coffee with the crew. It is not that I have nothing to do, just the opposite it puts me hours behind an already crazy ass schedule, but it allows me one whole minute of normalcy with my other family. Even if nothing is said at all. I am very grateful for the time off allowed thanks to my second family, but I do miss them.

What am I going to do if Jacy can never work again? I know that sounds selfish as hell but hear me out! Since we moved here I have worked very hard to build this place, to not owe anyone anything, putting every spare penny into new barns, doing the work myself, not taking a single loan but waiting patiently and in some cases building things with scraps and spares from other peoples lost projects. It is why we both drive 200,000 mile paid for cars, have a 15 year old horse trailer, still live with broken flooring in the house, a 30 year old kitchen and a hole in the ceiling. We have always lived on a thin line, trying to provide our children with a life most never dream of living. The life she always wanted for her children, the life I lived to some extent as a child. We knew it was going to be a struggle but took the challenge head on and a challenge it has been. Pay cuts, overtime loss, and raising costs of living, the very same struggles many of you face on daily basis! We are not special or any different than anyone else! Since Leukemia has taken over our lives my whole process has been reorganizing, selling things we don’t need, working for any extras needed around the ranch and slimming us down to a livable amount. I have put away every spare penny possible to cover her being out for an extended period of time. But what if? Do I have what it takes to keep reinventing ourselves? I always feel like I am never going to measure up. As though I am missing that one thing that others have to make themselves successful financially. We are making it without her income, but what if? I just can’t seem to shake the “what if’s” no matter how hard I try!!!! Is that normal? Am I just overreacting, should I just trust it will all be ok, and if so I just wish God would show me the way! Maybe he already has and I just can’t see it through a clouded mind that won’t shut off! I swear it’s as though my brains on crack! I really don’t care if my wife ever works again, I just want her to come home! To have a home to come home too! I just want to take care of her and see her with her children! To see her laughing and smiling surrounded by the animals she loves! I don’t care about me, my point was, hell I don’t even know what my point was anymore. Now that I have written it all out it seems arrogant, selfish and pitiful.

Speaking of her coming home. That proposed moment just keeps getting farther away! Every time she gets a possible date something else happens! I don’t know how she does it! She keeps a smile on her face and says; well what ya gonna do? She is right of course and we usually have a good laugh, but my nerves are raw. I am scared for everything she is going through, scared every time I walk through the doors, scared at every turn there is going to be more bad news, scared our lives without her for long periods of time will continue to be the norm, scared she will one day not smile anymore and feel as though there is nothing more she can do. Listen the prognosis is still good. There will be an outpatient date for her, but the hill just feels as though it is getting larger and harder to climb when it comes to her having any resemblance of a normal life. I know the retort is instantly; well at least she will have a life! But this is my one moment of bitching so let me have it! I want her home, I want her to never have to worry about her health ever again! I just desperately miss our life!

God! I just re-read this and it sounds self-centered and contrite all in one! Shit am I going crazy?

Today Jacy is going into the O.R. for a procedure to hopefully find and resolve her bleeding bladder issue. I am praying for the simplest of outcomes. The other options for controlling this issue are not what we want for our girl. Please pray for her today, that she gets the right answers, that everything goes smoothly, that she keeps a smile on her face and soon we hear she is smiling all the way home.

Thank you all for letting me vent. Tell me I am crazy, tell me I am ok, just tell me something for today I awoke feeling as though I was going to explode! I erased nothing in this rant, changed nothing even though I hate most of what I wrote, but I needed to write it and since I am unable to speak about it out loud, you have all just become my councilors. I am sorry for that, but good job on obtaining your degree.

12 Angry Men…

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The summons stared me in the face like an angry, arms crossed child. Neither of us wanting to give in to the others wants and needs yet both knowing there was only going to be one winner. A summons for jury duty, reissued as a continuance had already been granted. Myself not really wanting to be there, instead only thinking of the re-arrangements to our already taxed schedule. But as 0630 rolled around and we stared at each other with contempt, I blinked first, the jury summons won thus off to The Halls of Justice we went. (Cant type it without hearing the justice league cartoon)

Standing in line with other prospective jurors it was blatantly obvious no one wanted to be positioned in front of this building. I meandered slowly towards the door, belt in one hand, anything metal in the other, doing my best to not look annoyed as I proceeded through a metal detector. Once inside I quickly found a seat and the waiting began.

Several times instructions were read. Our summons clearly states all blanks on the reverse side should be completed prior to arrival on your assigned date. Apparently only 10% of us understood the instructions or even bothered to read this nasty little note. Finally a representative arrived and began reading from a list of names. There were to be three groups. One group assigned to courtroom 207, the other assigned to 208 and the third group was to stand by as alternates. No one wants to be in the alternate group as there is no timetable assigned. Either you are released right away or kept all day long as jury selection trudges forward.

So a little known secret. I love jury duty! Seriously, I think jury duty rocks! I have been on a jury and was picked to be the foreman! It took four days total and was very interesting. You really have no solid foundation for how our justice system works until you have been on a jury! But under my current circumstances it was not appealing at all. But I was there and would perform my civic duty regardless.

As a young gal stood at a podium reading names for group one and two, I secretly wished they’d call my name. I know I needed to be at Stanford, and as confusing as it is, I also knew I wanted to be on a jury, it’s kind of like the two biggest kids on the playground picking teams! You pray you are not one of the last two kids left with two captain’s arguing over which one of you sucks less! So I sat, listening to an alphabetic order, praying F would be for me! Well I ended up in group three. Bummer, the dreaded unknown!

Then something happened, they readjusted their numbers and just like that! I was headed to courtroom 208! Five minutes later they excused all alternate jurors! DAMNIT!!! I could not win! So I resigned myself to a possibility of four or five day’s jury duty. Sitting in the courtroom trying my hardest to listen to our judge I couldn’t focus! I kept thinking about my wife, laying there wondering when I would arrive. Then it was the kids, how will I get them where they need to be all week-long? But the final straw was when I realized I had no idea what the judge was saying! I had been sitting in the courtroom for 45 minutes and the only thing I remembered was raising my right hand to be sworn in! Also I had become overly stressed out over my phone being completely shut down! One of the rules of the courtroom! What if Jacy needed to reach me, or her mom or dad? There was no way I was going to be able to survive this and still care about the defendant’s right to a fair trial!

The judge asked at 1145 for all jurors who felt they had a valid hardship in conjunction with fulfilling their obligation to serve to please form a line outside. She also asked anyone who felt they would have an issue with serving to please raise their hand. 30 people raised hands, all grumbling as they did so. I did not. No way was I going to be a slacker! Good men and women have died for our freedoms and with those freedoms come the responsibility to fulfill our obligations. We Americans have one of the best judicial systems in the world. It may be flawed but it beats the hell out of being thrown in jail to rot with no rights at all! So this guy wasn’t going to be one of those guys! That’s right! Damn proud to be an American!!

11:45- The line is long. I am third from last.

Oh shut up! I hear y’all now grumbling about all that patriotic shit I just spewed! The long and the short of it? There was no way I was even close to being able to pay attention. As conflicting as it was for once it was about me, my needs, and the needs of my family. I was sorry for the defendant, but I didn’t put him there and my wife needed me! End of story!

Walking up to the podium, lump in my throat, I really did feel guilty. The judge was really awesome, from the beginning she was funny, with great dialogue! She reminded me of Judge Harry from the TV sitcom Night court!

I placed both hands on the podium looked up at her as she said hello. I shook my head (I think she could tell I was bothered by what I was about to do) and said: I feel guilty standing here right now.

Judge: I have that effect on people!

Everyone chuckled

Judge: What is your name for the record?

Me: James Franceschi

Judge: Go ahead Mr. Franceschi

Me: I didn’t raise my hand earlier and for that I am sorry but you see my wife, well my wife had a bone marrow transplant in July. This date today was my rescheduled summons, a date I picked because she was supposed to be home by now. She is not. She has had every ailment possible and continues to struggle through setbacks at Stanford hospital. Therefor I don’t believe I would be a good pick for this jury as my mind is obviously elsewhere.

Judge: family is the most important thing and should come first.

Me: Thank you, and please understand I am who you would want on a jury. Every time I am called I look forward to being picked and the last time I was here I was not only picked but the other jurors picked me to be the jury foreman as well! I had an amazing experience serving as a juror.

Judge: Thank you for your service Mr. Franceschi and let’s just say this ones on me! Your service here is complete and thank you again. The court wishes the best to you and your wife.

Me: Thank you judge

As I walked from the podium I heard the judge say thank you again and that she wished others could have heard my testimony. Slightly embarrassed, I quietly said thank you again and after a moment with the bailiff I was on my way. I hope one day I am called again and it is in her courtroom so I can be a part of her machine. I am sure anyone who serves under this judge comes away with a smile.

Two hours later I was with my wife. When I am with her my blood pressure drops, my head stops hurting a little, my heart beats a little slower, my smile grows a little larger.

I busted Jacy out of her room for a stroll to the fountain. We found a shaded seat as she cannot be in the sun and even with a mask on her face I saw her smile through her eyes. The warm breeze upon her skin, the sound of water crashing down and a duck or two chatting away in the distance. It was amazing just being by her side, knowing it is, was and always will be where I am supposed to be.

After we had all the sun and fun we could stand, I rolled her back inside where she proceeded to walk not one, but two laps around the quad. This girl wants to go home and bad! Of course this left her exhausted and within a few minutes she was fast asleep holding my hand.

Two hours later the day was gone and I needed to say goodbye. I hate saying goodbye. I still hate walking out the door. But I do so knowing she is being taken care of by some of the best human beings I have had the privilege to meet. I love her and so do they. It shows every time I arrive and am greeted with a smile.

This week she is starting another experimental drug to help control her bleeding bladder. Please continue to pray for rapid healing as prolonged exposure to this drug can leave irreversible damage. But it is our only rational option. I say this because the other two options, the way I understand them would leave her either on dialysis for the rest of her life or incontinent.

A day that started out with possibly twelve angry men ended with one happy wife and one humbled husband who is always glad to have another opportunity to simply hold my wife’s hand..

jacys hand

The fight..

She smiles whenever I walk through the door. Warm and happy, clapping her hands together with joy. As men and women we secretly hope our spouses are this happy to see us all the time, youth and a certain naivety lead us to these false hopes. We (husband and wife) eventually learn life will continually get in the way of how our relationships are portrayed within our imaginations. We have also learned over time that children, work, sports, school, social gatherings and general daily survival slowly tear down the very fabric our relationships were built upon when it was just the two of us.

Juuussst the two of us, we can make it if we tryyyyyy, just the two of us. You and I…

Sorry couldn’t help myself but C’MON!! You heard it too when I wrote it!!! Don’t shake your head no! You know it and I know it, you  heard it! Anyways….

Then Leukemia happens. It scares us to death! Just the sound of it. Leukemia. Yep it carries as much weight if not more than simply saying Cancer. Now we throw in remission, survival and cancer free. Re-lapse, Bone Marrow transplant, GvHD, success and failure statistics and well the emotional roller coaster of life and death drive you closer together. You begin to realize all the times you took each other for granted while expecting your relationship to never change or evolve. But it had changed. It had changed a lot. Of course nothing like you see on television, where there were secrets and you no longer spoke to each other. You know? Soap opera like stuff. No you both had settled into your roles as partners in this game of life. One handling the children’s education and transportation, the other handling finances, overtime work and building a future out of our property. The both of you sharing house and ranch duties, parenting, cooking, cleaning, laundry while you both try your hardest to equally dole out duties and discipline to our four ever needy children. Yes life can truly get in the way erasing the simpler times when you waited all day to see each other, then dreaded the moment you had to leave.

Every day I am home I cannot wait until I see her again. We don’t head out on a romantic date, no carriage rides, fancy dinners or moments alone in the park. Two people sitting sometimes quietly while the other sleeps, holding hands waiting for the next nurse to come in, ruining that moment of normalcy. I have said before I believe holding hands is the simplest form of compassion. These days it feels as though the nurse has walked in to interrupt us doing something we shouldn’t be, like teenagers hiding out in the barn. Yet we are simply holding hands, it is all we have.

6-7-8 hours within those four walls disappear in flash! I hate leaving! I hate leaving my girl behind! Walking out to the car I have learned to transform my emotions, change my demeanor, and count my blessings. For the easy road would be to remain angry at someone, anyone for what has happened to my wife. The once vibrant, larger than life woman has melted away to around 115-120 pounds depending on her water weight that day. Where toned tan legs once powered her successfully through a mini triathlon, two long bones remain, not one muscle in sight. Where long, gorgeous, curly hair rained down over her shoulders, a bald head remains. Her gleaming eyes and gorgeous face trying to peer out from under swelling and drug induced exhaustion. An athletic, active woman who rode horses and ran the perimeter of our property now worries about getting out of bed and walking a little farther down the hall every day. But I turn that all off as the building disappears behind my shoulders to focus on the positives.

She has beaten the odds so far and is still alive.

Jacy still has fight, lots of fight! Which is why she continues beating the odds! This woman, this beast wants to participate in double PT every day no matter how exhausted! Some days it doesn’t happen but she still tries! She continually defies nurses’ orders by getting up on her own to use the bathroom even though it is against protocol. Sitting in her chair for hours, sometimes all day as opposed to just staying in bed, waiting for things to change. Eating even though she has no desire to eat, drinking plenty of water and nutrition drinks which taste yucky. Using large rubber workout bands when she does stay in bed, hoping any little extra helps her to get home that much faster! Yep she is still fighting, like the angry Cuban stuck inside her, she is fighting and fighting hard!

So instead of moping on the way out the door, worrying about whether or not she will make it, I think about what and whom for which this daily battle rages. She fights first and foremost for her children, there is no doubt! Then she fights for her family and friends. She wants desperately to be there for all of your life changing events as a daughter, niece, aunt, mom and friend. It is what drives her forward when she begins feeling low.

Lastly she fights for herself, for you see she knows if there is no her, there is no me, and if there is no me, there is no her. Our love for each other has stood the test of time and will continue to do so. So she smiles when I come through the door, happy and giddy just to see me for a little while.

I sit down quietly, kiss her through all my hospital garb, and hold her hand. We smile, laugh, and talk. The hospital melts away for a few moments and I no longer see the woman waging war, but the soft, gentle, warm spirit I married 14 years ago.

We are winning……..

jacy stanford

Have we turned a corner?

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Everything is going to be alright, maybe not today, but eventually because beautiful things happen in life when you distance yourself from the negative and have faith.

Are we turning a corner? Has our journey gone the distance or is this just another phase filled with false hope? Will we be rejoicing or hanging our heads, heavy with burden and frustration over continued grief?

It appears as though Jacy has turned a corner in her treatment! Day by day, hour by hour, as her doctors continue slowly (and I mean turtle slow) reducing her steroids, she is feeling stronger! Her breathing has cleared up immensely, her intestines are somewhat co-operating, and although she remains on a steady regiment of Lasix, her swelling appears a bit reduced.

Walking these hallways is still a struggle but she is walking the entire hallway, not just to the door and back within the confines of her room! She is eating three meals a day! Although bland food and only in minute amounts it is a positive sign indeed for it translates to her body accepting nutrition!

Jacy’s doctor came in yesterday afternoon to announce they believe it is time to drop her dosage of Jakafi (experimental drug). This is huge! It means she is definitely moving in the right direction. It also means she is slowly becoming one of the 30% that survive this new experimental treatment! Her doctors will begin tapering dosages slowly and in segments. Starting today they will cut a few milligrams from the Jakafi then sit back and watch for 7-10 days. The fear being a relapse of GvHD (Graf vs Host Disease) which would put her right back at square one! Of course no one wants that, but at some point the process needs to begin and everyone on her medical team feel with all the positives lately, now is that time. Fingers double crossed!

Steroid dosages will also be slowly dropped again. She has done very well over the last 10 days since her last dosage adjustment which has been very encouraging. Jacy’s skin, still mottled with red marks, looks more like a giant stretched sunburn than the blistered, peeling abnormality previously covering her body. The doctor says her skin is healing very well and looks fantastic! Her skin looks so well he also announced there will be no more photopheresis treatments either! Such good news and having seen the previous skin condition I would agree with the doc, it does look fantastic! Don’t any of you become jealous when this is all over but she will have the skin of a teenage girl! Of course what would you expect, treatment is only a couple million dollars and you may die, sooooo…

Her immunosuppression drugs will also be adjusted as they fine tune its need in regards to controlling her new white cells and how they operate! This combined with a steroid reduction should allow her vision to improve over the same 7-10 day period barring any type of re-lapse. Her periods of visual acuity have improved, but she seriously cannot wait to be able to see again 100%. I tell her no hurry, she may end up with perfect eyesight and realize what a mutt she married and dump me! Ha!

So are we turning a corner? Does this nightmare possibly have an end date? I think yes.

Yesterday when I arrived her brother, mother and step mom where there and we all had a fantastic time laughing and joking about everything from family and friend dynamics to the absurdity of hospital existence. It was great to see her smiling and chuckling as though it was a normal family gathering at any one of our houses for any number of reasons! The only thing missing was good bbq and a bottle (or two) of wine. I felt great when I left her last night. I knew with all the energy spent with us she would most likely sleep well.

From the beginning I have touted faith. It is not something I just say, it something I believe! Whether your faith is absorbed in religion, a god, a spirit or just a continued faith in yourself. One should have faith, it helps quell any negativity and although I am also a realist, having faith has allowed me a better grasp of working my way through my emotions when they arose.

Does this mean I am no longer scared? No. We still have a very long road ahead of us in regards to a full recovery. In reality we both will remain scared for a very long time to come. A simple cold, cough or sniffle. Her feeling run down, tired or lethargic. Losing weight or gaining for no reason. Any mark, blister or lesion. All these things and more will have us running back to the doctor at a moment’s notice. Hopefully as time passes these feelings will pass as well.

For now, Jacy needs to get to the next level of care which involves her leaving the hospital for her dads house where she will begin daily outpatient care treatments right back at Stanford. She will be with family, in a familiar setting, living in an apartment that we have stayed in numerous times and that is a humongous boost for morale. Not just for her but the entire family.

The next level after three months of outpatient? Come home! I cannot even imagine what it will feel like for her to walk through our back door, live in her own house, sleep in her own bed, and not rely on others for care after possibly 9 months? I am positive she will need to work her way through multiple emotions associated with being gone for so long from her ranch, children, animals etc…

There has been nothing easy about this journey for anyone. It has been and continues to be an uphill climb. But when I think about where we are compared to a month ago, and how well she is responding to treatment in combination with her doctor sharing such good news yesterday? I say yes we have turned a corner and that uphill climb appears to be flattening out just a bit. None of us can wait for the ride down the other side of this crazy ass Leukemia ridden mountain!

Have faith, move forward, when you fall down get back up and try again. For if you have faith there is nothing to hold you back from success but you.

So to the question posed at the top of the page.

I choose rejoice….

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