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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She fights

Every morning she wakes up between 4 am and 0930. Her sleep is not natural as pills determine the night or days slumber routine. Weight is something she cannot gain and although there would be some envious of this side effect it is anything but glamourous. Her eyes work somedays while others they are filled with a blurry focus similar to gazing through a plastic milk jug. Her breathing is labored at times and she needs oxygen throughout the day and night to help keep her lungs strong. Pain is everywhere and nowhere, moving from an arm or a nervous leg to her back, sides, head, teeth and eyes. Medication is everywhere, we have pill bottles around every corner (figure of speech) waiting to either empty or crack open in dire need. 23 little pills, swallowed three times a day. Each pill with a specific purpose, each pill supporting another as they cross paths within her tired system.

Each day is a new adventure, wandering from upstairs to down. There are moments of greatness! A trip to the basement, or a stroll to the tree outside, down the road. Muscles yearning for mass from not that long ago, arguing with her central nervous system over usage, proper form and desire. Prioritizing each need hoping it can guide her successfully towards a much needed strong finish.

The garden yearns for her touch, her flowers and fruit trees scream for attention! There is one big draft horse and its little Donkey friend who stare at the house wishing she could come out and play. Little do they know she stares right back?

Her teaching job calls to her as she misses each and every child who ever graced her classroom door. Their quirky attitudes, laughter and stories, making each day special in its own way. Instruction, knowledge sharing, testing, creating, and showing each child no matter their background that her classroom was always a safe place to be, a wonderful place to learn.

Friends come and go, happy to see their friend has made it to this place of reclusion. She moves about between the kitchen, living room and bedroom. Little stints in each area much like a 7th grader changing classes. Sitting just long enough to learn and appreciate either her surroundings or emotional moments shared between herself and her children. She laughs and loves to have endless conversation with her friends. She knows she will pay for it as with any two hour visit there is a three hour nap post get together with her pillow. But when she awakens she smiles, for a visit is something special when not more than three months ago there was talk of her not surviving.

She longs to be free. Free from this damn GVHD! Free from this home that has somewhat imprisoned her for hours on end. She longs to hop in the car and drive herself to the fabric store, feeling that independence so taken for granted not that long ago. Oh occasionally she spreads her wings and drives to a softball game, or over to the produce market. They are after all straight shots and if her eyes get to bad I am but a minute away. But it still isn’t the same.

The feeling of exhaustion from walking to the car, shortness of breath after lifting a couple bags or fruit, closing the cars hatch and finally sitting back behind the wheel. This is a mental war with her physical being that’s being fought and has escalated rapidly. There are times she wishes she could just tell herself to knock it off and get with the program! This runner, swimmer, biker mom who could out move most people on their best days now needs help just to get up the stairs. She is cooking dinner again and slowly starting to do laundry (because she wants too!). Anything to make her feel normal, like nothing has happened and life is just as it was or should be. She is sewing and drawing which are two things she very much enjoys. She is constantly trying her hardest to gain just a little more ground. No matter what that ground may be.

People constantly ask me how she is doing. My response is always the same.

No better, no worse, just one tough lady who is happy to be home.

Jacy survived chemotherapy, she survived remission, then recurrence; she survived chemotherapy once again and then watched with the strength of a thousand draft horses as a new immune system entered her body during a BMT transplant. She has survived every GvHD (Graft vs Host Disease) complication known to man and lived after putting her big girl panties on willfully accepting a new trial drug to combat her symptoms. Her doctors tell us each time we visit that we are in uncharted territory. She was not expected to survive but when asked what her thoughts were she said; I am not leaving my family! End of story! You can do what you want, but I am not leaving my kids or my husband.

And she hasn’t.

My wife has always been a fighter. She fought for our relationship in the beginning, she continually fights for our children; she fought for our daughter and fought for hundreds of children in Haiti. She fought this thing call Leukemia and now fights GvHD. She is currently fighting a bit of trapped in the house depression, along with an ability to hold onto hope for herself and her future. She fights against the elements, hoping one little organism isn’t out there with her name on it, waiting to attack! A nasty little bugger giving her something else to fight for with her back up against the ropes. She fights for herself and her need to succeed. She fights because that’s who she is and what she does well. She fights while keeping a patented Jacy smile affixed firmly upon her face.

She fights to come back to church, and pray.

She fights to have some semblance of her old life back.

She is my hero and that’s why I will always fight for her.

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Have you ever heard???

Have you ever heard the cry? It’s a voice inside your head that won’t leave you alone. A mash of emotions trapped inside with nowhere to go. The voice is always there, begging, nagging, wondering, encouraging or discouraging depending upon the day, but do you hear it? Do you hear it cry? It cries for freedom, it cries for solitude, it cries for exhilaration and it cries for despair.

Have you ever told it to just shut up? To leave you alone? Do you find yourself arguing with it while driving in the car? Does it make you crazy just when you feel life isn’t crazy enough? The voice cries out, yearning to be heard but you swallow it down, forcing it into a state of mute while smiling on the outside hoping no one around you hears its needs. Have you ever heard it cry?

Over the last two years my life has been blessed. It has been hard, it has been emotional, it has been; well it has been hell. But through it all I have been blessed to talk with so many people and touch so many lives. To share correspondence with just one person walking in the very the same shoes makes every moment staring at a computer screen while typing my life to the world worth it! All I have ever wanted is to share, to explore and to help. To hear my inner voice cry.

During any time of hardship or struggle there are always those looking to find something wrong with you? Its ok, it’s not that they or anyone else is doing something wrong, for the most part they care and are trying to help the best way they know how. To intervene. We are all taught to intervene from the time we are children, but what we are not taught is what to do after we have intervened. You see I believe every person is different. People handle things differently, they handle stressors differently and it’s ok. Just because someone is not living up to your expectations of how, where, when and why they should behave doesn’t mean they’re doing it wrong. It just means those of us choosing to intervene, whether it be loved one, family or friend, need to broaden our horizons learning to accept and understand. For you see that wounded person is listening to their inner voice cry.

Maybe they have never heard it before, this inner voice and this new found annoyance keeps them up at night, or maybe it’s always been there but now that person is listening, hearing the voice and understanding its hunger to be heard. Hardship, or tragedy has turned up their hearing aids. Either way, it is that person’s voice to listen too, and they will listen to the point of acceptance or denial. During these times of trial this person may need nothing from us or they many need complete and total support, but believe me when I say, the inner voice is crying out and it’s running the show.

On a particular day when things weren’t going so well I found myself in a full blown argument with my inner voice. Long list of things to do and I felt as though I was losing the battle. In the middle of it all I glanced into my rear view mirror to see Parker gazing off into the distance with that faraway look reserved for those who have checked out from their current realm, entering the wondrous Walter Mitty world created in our heads.

I asked; Hey Park do you ever answer the voices in your head?

He smiled without breaking his gaze out the window: Why yes I do.

How many voices are in there little buddy?

Only one dad, but there is room for more!

With that, a sly smile and a gleam in his eye, my dry humored, wicked smart eleven year old boy let me know he understands.

So when you hear the cry from deep inside, don’t ignore it. Listen, that voice may be your savoir or it just may be the only one who is listening at the time. Either way over the last two years I have stopped pushing it down deep inside, acting as though it doesn’t exist, and because of that, my inner voice has been able to put pen to paper as it were for everyone to know the true, what, where, when, why and how.

Ms. Jacy is hearing her inner voice cry as well! It is screaming to heal faster! As though the Bionic Woman were trapped inside just waiting to roll out that super human strength! Yesterday we walked, climbed some stairs and tried to make it up her dad’s driveway a bit. She did great, but as with any exertion for her at this stage it came at a cost. She went in laid down and drifted off to sleep. Her medications leave her pretty well zapped. The bladder issue has not resolved itself so Platelets and blood are still the order of the day. She has an IV pump tagging along with her where ever she goes and there are 23 medications consumed three times a day. UGGHH!!

But here is the best part. She is no longer in the hospital. She is able to nibble on regular food and this makes her smile. Although she definitely does not like being told to what to do when it comes to her nutrition. We spend a lot of our days talking about the future, being thankful for our amazing families and sleeping. Yep when I am on Jacy duty I actually get to sleep a bit, something my body has been lacking for a very, very long time! It is nice to be back next to my girl.

The kids had a great winter vacation. Thank you to everyone who helped make my children’s Christmas extra special! All my love to you all! The kids of course received the best present ever when their mom came home to her dad’s house. They stayed at Grandpas from the first of the year until late last night! Spending their days with family and their mom! Everyone was so happy!

So we move onto the next phase. Weekly trips to see Jacy on the weekends and closely monitoring her progress. She has her Step-mom by her side daily. Gina left her job to care for my wife and we are forever grateful for this dedication. It leaves our entire family at ease as we know how well she is being cared for! Everyone keep those prayers coming as we have a long road to go and I firmly believe it is because of all your prayers we have made it this far! God bless you all.

Time to go, I hear my inner voice crying…..

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Thankful

 glad that something has happened or not happened, that something or someone exists, etc.

: of, relating to, or expressing thanks

As people are winding down their 26 days of being thankful prior to Thanksgiving, I ponder. Sentiments aside, these one, often two line quips of gratitude at times feel forced. You know as in; I better come up with something, I have 18 days to go and I wouldn’t want my friends to think I am a thankless idiot! While other lines of recognition feel genuine and heartfelt, leaving one to pause and reflect, often times a nod of approval comes forth as we connect through their honesty.

I decided in late October this was my year to compete in this annual tradition. 26 days should be simple enough, Lord knows there is plenty for me to be thankful for! Being one who thrives on a challenge it appeared as though I would have no trouble. A comfortable location was established, pen and paper solidly in hand when it occurred to me (quite arrogantly I might add) writing down my overwhelming gratitude in one bold sitting would be of no consequence! Just a man, his love for everyone, gratefulness for prayers answered and the watchful eye of an entire community! It would be as my son would say; easy, peasy….

After 30 minutes I found myself with head firmly placed in hands, everything I wrote sounded trite, as if I was pandering, pleading for recognition in my sincerity, my “thankfulness”. Verbs, adjectives nouns and pronouns all clashing together like a 60 car pileup on Interstate 80 in dense fog! Of course the metaphor being fog, as in the soupy, dense thought process consuming my brain! Writing then scribbling, scratching then tossing it all aside! Sitting at my desk going through page after page of printer paper was incredibly frustrating! Of course even more frustrating was the moment I realized; I WAS SITTING AT MY FREAKING DESK! WHY IN THE WORLD WASN’T I ON THE COMPUTER USING WORD!!!

Phew sorry I had to take a break and return my heart to a reasonable rate. 

26 days of being thankful may as well been 2600 days describing the taste of peanut butter! I was stuck and stuck good.. Then like the sun rising in the east, it dawned upon me. I am thankful everyday even when at times I may not show it. So if I were too, let’s say, write down my feelings in regards to being thankful, maybe and this is a big maybe now, maybe I could try expressing myself in one single written act of thankfulness? No little one/two liners or single paragraphs although there is absolutely nothing wrong with that, it just isn’t my style. One written piece that says it all by getting to the root of my thankfulness, no extra explanation, no need to wonder where I am going with it and no publicly being thankful my cat still uses a litter box! (That was day eight on a friend’s page) Although that is a giant plus! Really!

Better late than never! With one day left to go Im diving in head first! Wish me luck!

14 years ago a woman entered my life, she brought with her light. For you see at the time my life was somewhere lost inside a dark tunnel. I was alone, trapped inside myself, cold and filled with hate. Life was not what I had expected, or even planned and I wondered how I would ever be able to share the joys of life with others when there was no joy in mine. For many years prior my personality was a fabrication, a way to hide my insecurities, my short comings. The person I had become over the years I didn’t particularly care for and in reality if I had met myself in an alley somewhere I would have probably kicked my own ass. I yearned for a way out of who I was and what I had become, but did not know how. Stubborn, jaded and incapable of recognizing it was not the world who had a problem with me, but me who had a problem with myself. It was tough to even look at myself in the mirror each morning and I usually hated the upcoming day.

The light walked through my door and she knew, she knew that very minute I was trouble yet there was something more. She knew despite fighting every urge she had to run that this was where she needed to be! She braved the loss of friends and family because in her heart and soul, even though it was confusing and it hurt, this was where God needed her most.

It was a tough decision to love me. She could have done much better, she could have had a better life financially, and she could have found someone with the same values and views right off the bat, but she listened to that voice that said to trust in him. She listened even though at times it frightened her to do so. Sometimes the whole thing was just too much and she would run home for a week or two. After careful reflection she would return, renewed ready to follow this path.

I was no easy catch or treasured prize! In the beginning it was hard, very hard. My angry, one sided, opinionated views were difficult to take, but she took them. She would fight back, never relenting until the hardened crust around me began to break. Even during some of the toughest times she would say, I am never leaving you, never giving up, I know who you are James and I know this will all be ok. I love you.

In the end she was almost always right, I didn’t have to like her methods, but knowing she loved me somehow made it easier to accept my faults. Having her smile at me, give me a hug then let me rest my weary head on her shoulder after a day or two of kicking the ugly side of me to the curb left me feeling protected, needed. She had become the light, carefully leading me from the dark tunnel that was my personality and my life.

For 14 years she has stayed by my side, we have built a life like no other. We have four children who have also benefitted from her stubborn way of doing things, her take no prisoners attitude. One of our children is a solid man ready for the world and three others are following suit faster than I care for! She is the center of our family, the nucleus; from our ranch to the animals that inhabit it, there is a piece of her everywhere you look. She is the best of friends to many, a teacher who loves her students as if they were her own children, a hand that reaches out for you when no one else will with honesty, generosity and love. She loves her town, her church and all of her church family. She has shown our family how life is sweeter when you give of yourself and that receiving Gods love is so very important. She believes everyone and everything deserves a second chance. I used to get upset when she was mad and I never really knew why. Everyone deserves to be mad at some point, I mean no life is so perfect that you are happy all the time. But when she smiles, when she laughs, when she looks at you with that relaxed caring look, you realize you hate to see her upset or mad because it is wasted emotions in regards to who she really is, to what she really provides! To see her inner light as it shines over all who reside within her love.

I really don’t know what I would do without her, she taught me how to accept myself. I still struggle daily with old emotions and it’s hard to not have her here on a daily basis. But inside, when I get frustrated or mad, or feel the “old James” fighting to emerge because it’s the easy way out, I think about the strength of her love. Today when she hits rock bottom with treatment or ongoing issues with her body she looks at me, knows just how much I love her; knows how thankful I am and I’d like to believe it drives her forward. She has given me the strength to be loved and to whole heartedly give that love right back. To shine.

So what am I thankful for this year? Well unfortunately it’s not going to take me 26 days to explain it. (And remember there is nothing wrong with that)

It only takes one sentence.

This year I am thankful the light in my life is still able to shine.

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone in my life, I love you all…

 

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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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Every minute of every second of every day…….

 

I have not written in a while and for that I apologize. Today while thinking about my children, watching the news and looking into the eyes of some of our youth. This came to me. I don’t know what it means, but once I started typing I could not stop.

Every minute of every second of every day, we grow older. Life moves before us at an astonishing rate, faster than our minds are able to fully comprehend. In reality we stand frozen facing the hourglass of life, witnessing what appears as agonizing seconds, thunderous ticking of a tock, movement that seems to stand still as life revolves at a pace that is not to our liking and yet we breathe.

Breathing an absurdity that is our arrogance. For as we breathe we continue to expire and yet no reality of decay meets comprehension. It is within our egotistic nature to face the hands of time and laugh. Laugh through our young mouths as we expire, laugh with our condescending young minds as we inhale, laugh and laugh some more, for we fear not what may lay ahead when youth is our only guide. We fear not what lies ahead when youth is our only means, we fear not what lies ahead for we have never known otherwise.

Every minute of every second of every day we are older, we are wiser, and once age has gripped us tightly we slowly become irrelevant. The youth of this world hears not what we say, they hear not what we have to offer, and they fear not the repercussion of blind foolishness. Though we have learned through experience, though we know from pain, though we still struggle with suffering, we have mentally surrendered to the tick tock, we stand brave faced into the hands of time ignoring what we could never have known and yet we are to be considered by youthful brigades as obsolete.

Breathing in we struggle with ignorance of youth along with an hypocrisy that is born of our own. For through inspiration knowledge falls away, sloughing from the skin of an aged arm, what little remains unused, thrown to the wind by the deafness of youth. Exhalation of life reveals that our future is of our own making; its remnants left from advice unheard throughout our journey of youth. Elders ignored, a blind eye turned to the very history we were scorned for not abiding.

The world, our future, our children’s future can never be realized until the hand of youth joins with the strength of age. Youthful creativity meeting elderly knowledge, young love and passion mixed with aged temperance, wide-eyed exuberance with sometimes narrow but skilled guidance. One melded with another, not two separate living beings fighting for space and time to no real conclusion.

Every minute of every second of every day we grow older, and unless we understand a world will always turn, a day will turn to-night and then to-day again and soon what came from nothing will return to nothing. There will never be a unified progression.

We all leave this world with only what we chose to share.

I choose to share love, wisdom, peace and tolerance for all. Some days are harder than others, the fight for tolerance on all levels is tough, but I have been guided by many great people who imparted wisdom that remains heard though they are gone. Hopefully my children or the youth, will understand, listen and realize that one day they too will be older, they must share, understand and guide others.

For every minute of every second of every day will soon be over.

What else do I have to leave behind, what else do we all have to leave behind but love?

 

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And then, like that, he was gone…..

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Last night I did one of the hardest things I have ever had to do… 

I left my son at college. 

Hold on you say: THAT is one of the hardest things you have ever had to do? Through all your life experiences, work related and personal, all you have had a hand in or dealt, that was one of the hardest things you seriously have ever had to do??? 

Me: yes..

Cody James Franceschi was born on July 11, 1996. He came out with the cord wrapped around his little neck and an interesting shade of purple illuminating his hue. After 30 seconds of delivery room panic he was placed in front of me. The moment I held him, I swore I would never leave his side.  I didn’t care if he grew up a monstrous felon, I would never, ever leave this boys side.

and I haven’t… Until now.

Having children is a cruel fucked up joke! You spend all this time planning, preparing, and making lists. You swear to all within range he will be better than you, raised properly and through due diligence turn 18 and head off into the world a well rounded individual due to those 18 years of unwavering efforts. The little bundle of joy arrives, you hold him and instantly this macho, puffy chested, kick a puppy bravado melts away.  

What was I saying about being tough, having a firm hand, kicking his ass out when he is 18? Boogie, boogie boo! What a sweet little man; is he cooing? Did he just make a pee, pee? YES! MY BOY JUST MADE A PEE PEE!!! HE IS A GIANT AMONGST MEN, A LEADER OF THE PEE PEE FREE WORLD!! LOOK NURSE, LOOK! NO OTHER LAD HAS PEE’D SO FAST AND SO WELL IN ALL OF YOUR CAREER! RIGHT???

You bring him home, don’t sleep for nights, but one look in their faces and its all ok isn’t it? Over the first couple of years there are more sleepless nights, something like 5,000 dirty diapers that need to be changed (didn’t know you held a degree in waste water management did you) snotty noses, first trips to the doctor, and the crying, oh my goodness the crying; and thats just you 10603680_10204623672698324_6162773971597865019_naround midnight in the fetal position on the floor, let alone the kids whimpers. 

Things move along, they go to school, make new friends, have parent teacher conferences, a few teacher, teacher conferences that you might find out about later, and in the middle of it when you are struggling to help them with homework because lets face it, your college education is out the window; unbelievably after all this you can barely function at a fifth grade level! Then what?? You and your spouse come up pregnant again! Whoopieeeee!!! Oh well we got this now so whats one or 3 more over a 10 year period. Right?

Middle school comes and you watch his heart break over a girl who moves away, you stay tough, tell him she wasn’t the first and she wont be the last. Spend countless hours sharing tales of the heart and the woe involved hoping he can glean some valuable information. But he remains strong and yearns for her anyways. He does date a few other girls, but lets face it, you always remember the first girl you liked. 

IMG_0522We begin to see his excellence arise as he comes home with awards, both scholarly and athletic.  His whit becomes sharper, his laugh is developing, a voice changes.

Then one day he is in high school and you are left wondering how this happened? Four years, you have four years left with what was a, 9 pound bundle of joy just yesterday. Thats plenty of time right? Yeah, four years is a long time so all is right with the world. 

Four years of 0 period, cross country, band practices, the fair, raising pigs, FFA, homework-tons of homework! You look around and it feels as though life is spinning out of control! His dry whit has now formed an attitude which in reality is his testosterone testing the proverbial waters. He becomes an avid bow hunter, loves

taxidermy, duck hunting and fishing. He is running at a 100 miles and hour and so are you! Helping coach his team just to spend more time with him, meeting more kids you think are awesome and their equally awesome parents. You keep trying to make his hobbies a priority but with three others at your beck and call, all in their early stages of adolescent development those moments he held your sole attention are becoming harder and harder.  He gets his drivers license and a hunting dog, then just like that it begins…

He slowly starts heading out without you. He doesn’t need you anymore to get him out to hunt, fish or mountain bike, and you being the ever busy, trying to be all to everyone dad let it happen.  

Another thing starts to happen as well. You trust him.  No accidents, no tickets, he is where he says he is going to be, comes home when he says he will be home, takes care of the house for you while you are gone, and stands side by side with you when building fence or the barn, or fixing something all without you asking him. He doesn’t have to do it, he particularly doesn’t care for the ranching side of things, but he wants to because its valuable time he is sharing with you, without making it a big deal. He has befriended a wonderful man through his mom who owns a kennel and a 3 year friendship, work equity relationship arises. This man (Steve) teaches him how to train bird dogs in exchange for work. He takes Cody under his wing and treats him like a son. A father couldn’t ask for more.IMG_0828

He still leaves the shop a mess, and forgets to mow the lawn occasionally, drives his mom and I crazy while exerting his unrequited knowledge on occasion, but he is always there at home. You watch him branch out into training and boarding his own dogs. His love for canines, all canines is amazing, they all flock to him without question and he can get them to do pretty much what ever he wants. “Thanks again Steve.”  He idolizes you, your training abilities, knowledge of classic cars, guns and stuff. Every boy should have that one adult that is not his dad or mom to look up too. Just so they know dad/mom aren’t completely full of shit. 

End of the year parties, graduation, kids you both have watched from 5-18 all still friends patting each other on the back happy to have finally finished high school.  Its an amazing time, filled with laughter, high hopes, and the prospects seem endless. What college will they be accepted too, what branch of the military are they joining, where is the Tech school they are attending. The conversations are inspiring and so fun to listen too.. You smile, proud of them all, feeling like they are your kids as well. An accomplishment for sure. 

Then it happens.

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You arrive one Thursday morning with another family to move him into his dorm. He is rooming with a life long friend. The son of one of our closest friends, so it feels extra special. The 10550937_10204634312364309_4595586460827221397_nexcitement is palpable, the boxes are torn apart, belongings placed carefully around the dorm. Then it hits you just a little, this is THIER room. Not a room in your house, not a void of space for which they can hide and try their best to avoid following the rules. This is THIER room.  It is perfect. It smells like 30 years of boys who came before them, the carpet and tattered dorm furniture are mid 80’s at best. But they have arrived, 18, adults and out on their own 5 1/2 hours from home. They are free!

I am proud, so very proud of the man Cody has become or is still becoming. I am overwhelmingly proud of all he has accomplished through his tenacity, his mothers help and besides my fumbling self. 18 years ago I felt I had all the time in the world with this boy, now as I sit and write this, my head is filled with every single wonderful thing we have done together and as a family. His brothers are going to miss him so, Parker idolizes Cody and Jake has really needed his guidance this last year. I have not seen them yet to see how they are handling this huge IMG_0717change in our family dynamics. But even with all the memories, the family time, the brotherly and sisterly bonding. I feel like I may have missed out on some things.  

And this is where raising children becomes the cruelest of jokes. I have also come to realize, he doesn’t need me anymore..

Oh I will always be his dad, he will hopefully call me for advice and want to talk now and again. But he no longer NEEDS me. It is devastating and crushing my heart….  

Here is the second cruelest part of the joke. 

Somewhere over the last year, he became my friend.  I didn’t realize it until this morning when I was making coffee and he wasn’t there, strolling out in his shorts or PJ bottoms. You see pretty much every morning I am home he walks out and says; what’s up pop? Then has a cup of coffee with me and we talk about hunting, or guns, or cricket (his dog) or the fire department. We talk like two grown men as opposed to a father and son. 10394559_10204636401056525_8503219086095135140_n

My friend has also been there every evening to say goodnight as both of us are always the last to go to bed. I took it for granted, and today I realized short of school breaks the first year, then trailing off as he gets his own place next year and develops his own life, he will no longer be there or here or what ever the case may be. He wont be stopping by the station anymore to say hi and hang out for a while between school or practice, or asking if we can go fishing, hunting, shooting bows, another series of events I assumed would always be there. He wont be around anymore to save my bacon when things fall apart schedule wise around this busy ranch. He is grown, we fostered him, loved him, guided him, argued with him and now he has succeeded and is gone. My son, my friend, is on his own and the silence within these four walls this morning is deafening. 

So many asked yesterday if I cried?

Well I am glad to say I held it together, that is until this morning when I tortured myself by walking to his room ( a reflex response to our daily coffee routine) looking in, seeing only his hunting dog, lying on the bed, sad, wondering why Cody’s truck was here, I was home and Cody was not. It was more than I could take; she doesn’t understand whats happening, the boy who slept alongside her everyday for three years since adopting her, is now gone and I cant explain to her why or that he will be home in a few months or that she will move with him next year when he gets his own place. The emptiness of the room became the emptiness within my heart, knowing he will never truly live here 100% again. This will always be his home but no longer will he reside within its walls everyday, something apparently I have taken for granted for 18 years.

So there I stood, shoulders slumped, no Cody lying on the bed, room half empty of his belongings and a sad dog who had surrounded herself with her favorite play-toys. 

I balled like a baby…….. 

JACY 20

The Face of Leukemia (December 11, 2013)

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And so another aspect of this journey begins, a long and winding road filled with new highs and lows. The first hurdle has been crossed. The hospital is temporarily behind us as we will head back towards it in a month. Now begins a fight of great proportions.  Battling her compromised immune system.

4,500-10,000 white blood cells per microliter (mcL).

That is what we are hoping to achieve over the next week.  It doesn’t sound like much but in the grand scheme of things it’s the difference between life and death, staying home and heading back to the hospital. Walking then running, being surrounded by family and friends ar remaining in isolation.

Jacy’s white blood cell count was obliterated, dropped to zero by chemotherapy. This was of course designed as such to decimate the mutated cancerous “blasts” of immature cells invading her system, slowly eliminating her ability to fight infection, damaging other cells and choking her system with further useless cells.

Before she was able to come home her white cell count needed to rise above 800 and for days we would get excited as it rose to 600 then dropped to nothing with an onset of fever and night sweats.  Jacy’s platelet count would drop meaning her red cells were disappearing and her body was having trouble converting or carrying oxygen within her system.  Chemotherapy as I have said before destroys all cells.  You must kill them all so new ones can grow and flourish.  Or as the doctor put it, be brought as close to death as one can get before being allowed to live. So everyday would start out with a new blood transfusion, platelets and a lot of rest.

Along with all this cellular bombardment comes the neupogen shots. These shots are started after white blood cells slowly start production. What is neupogen?

Filgrastim- (Neupogen) is a granulocyte colony-stimulating factor (G-CSF) analog used to stimulate the proliferation and differentiation of granulocytes.[1] It is produced by recombinant DNA technology. The gene for human granulocyte colony-stimulating factor is inserted into the genetic material of Escherichia coli. The G-CSF then produced by E. coli is different from G-CSF naturally made in humans.
Filgrastim is marketed under several brand names, including Neupogen (Amgen), Imumax (Abbott Laboratories), Grafeel (Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories), Neukine (Intas Biopharmaceuticals), Emgrast (Emcure Pharmaceuticals), Religrast (Reliance Life Sciences), Zarzio (Sandoz), Nufil (Biocon) and others.
Apricus Biosciences is currently developing and testing a product under the brand name Nupen which can deliver filgrastim through the skin to improve post-chemotherapy recovery of neutrophil counts.

Ok so that was the technical doctor jargon, a pharmacists evening read. The down and dirty is Neupogen jump starts your system, telling it to make white blood cells and make them now!!

Neupogen is given through subcutaneous shots, started in the hospital and once we achieved a white cell bench mark the responsibility has been passed to me for in home treatment.  For all the greatness that is Neupogen there are also a few side effects for Jacy to deal with and they are;

The most commonly observed adverse effect is mild-to-moderate bone pain after repeated administration and local skin reactions at the site of injection.[3] Other observed adverse effects include serious allergic reactions (including a rash over the whole body, shortness of breath, wheezing, dizziness, swelling around the mouth or eyes, fast pulse, and sweating), ruptured spleen (sometimes resulting in death), alveolar hemorrhage, acute respiratory distress syndrome, and hemoptysis.[3] Severe sickle cell crises, in some cases resulting in death, have been associated with the use of filgrastim in patients with sickle cell disorders.[4]

The bone pain is killing her! It hurts to lay down, it hurts to stand up, she explained it to me as such, “my bones feel like they are exploding”. Can you imagine feeling as though your bones were exploding? I can’t.

So we are finally home and the last 48 hours have been an adjustment. Jacy is still exhausted, but very, very happy to be in her home. She is sleeping a lot (which is good), her bones are exploding inside, fatigue comes from walking downstairs (although we did journey outside yesterday which was awesome). The bed is soaked from night sweats and she awakes at 3 am unable to return in slumber. Jacy is also coming to terms that her life in the forseeable future will not be the same. This is going to be the hardest for her. Not being able to ride her horses or walk outside to play with the dogs is bringing much strain to the newest face of Leukemia. The thought of not being able to teach in her classroom this year is devastating. But she will prevail.  She is an incredibly strong woman who will triumph over this bastard known as Leukemia.

Today I held her as she cried over a current life lost, the realization of a unkown future, and the feeling of utter helplessness. I have always considered myself a strong person, but until you have faced a battle of this magnitude, become a true foundation for the person you love. You realize everything you have done in the past pales in comparison. Then you cry, not in front of her, but alone, so that foundation remains steadfast. My tears of sadness shedding her pain not mine. Throwing those feelings away, never to be seen or felt again, because we can only live for the positive.

Remission is a word the both of us are longing to hear. A word associated with freedom from the grip cancer/Leukemia has upon a soul.  We will walk every step together towards Remission, holding hands, moving slowly until we arrive.

Still kicking cancers ass, one cell at a time.

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The Face of Leukemia cont….

(Sorry everyone I am a little exhausted today and my writing shows)

The next day brought a tsunami of nurses and doctors. They filled into Jacy’s room, each with a different explanation, each with an intended purpose, each wanting to ensure we knew what was happening and why. They were fast, they were thorough, they came and went just as quickly. They were also some of the nicest people I have ever met.  I mean seriously generous, kind-hearted, nice people.

You know what I am talking about, the kind of people you see in a small town where everyone knows everyone and when someone is down they all rally behind that person with empathy, generosity and love.  Wait that sounds familiar? Nawww that doesn’t happen anymore these days. (sarcasm)

Anyways the first nurses we became acquainted with were JoAnne and Wayne.  Wayne is a 40 year veteran in the nursing profession and it shows right away. His knowledge and approach with patients is mesmerizing.  This man could teach a very successful class on customer service.  JoAnn is hilarious and does her absolute best to keep us in good spirits from the moment she strolls through the door.  She is absolutely adorable, her and Jacy hit it off right away, a new friendship is born.

The morning is filled with more needle pokes, more blood drawn, and an echocardiogram of Jacy’s heart. This was needed to ensure her heart was healthy enough for the Chemo meds as they are extremely toxic to heart muscle. So a baseline for cardiac output is measured, tolerances devised and the green light given for treatment.

Dr. Truong comes in to discuss possibilities and probabilities in regards to Jacy’s treatment of chemotherapy.  We sit together in awe as numbers, types, statistics, age, medicines and death are all thoroughly covered.  In the end Dr. Truong tells us it doesn’t matter what current statistics are, what matters is you the individual.  You, your brain and your body will determine the outcome of this procedure. She emphasizes a positive attitude will get Jacy along way during treatment.  She looks up to see Jacy smiling her patented big radiant smile and instantly knows attitude isn’t going to be a problem.

Within minutes the I.V. stand becomes loaded with several cocktail mixtures for inter venous consumption.  Lines go in, Jacy lays back and before long my lovely wife, who three days ago thought all was right with world is now a Cancer patient in treatment with chemotherapy.

We spent the better part of the afternoon talking about the last ten years together, where we came from and where we hoped to be when we retired.  Promises made to slow life down when we walk out of this hospital, but I know deep inside that isn’t going to happen. It takes a lot to hold down two jobs, run a ranch and save little puppies from death (Coopers Good Dog Rescue) then raise four children while participating in kids sports, 4-H, FFA, high school rodeo and well good old life in general. Truth be told it has created memories we will cherish together always. We talked about everything under the sun but do you know what we didn’t talk about? Letting cancer win! Thats right, positive attitude all the way! Every one of our conversations about the future had the two of us in it, no death, no separation, only triumph and togetherness. Our conversation started winding down, we made fun of cancer a few more times, even held each other and cried one or two more times.  Then we sat back and began to wait. For what I did not know, but we waited…

While all this was happening,  behind the scenes at home an army was taking shape.  A collage of human spirit weaving its way slowly together getting stronger and stronger by the minute. It was amazing, I had received a few phone calls from loved ones and very close friends within minutes of Jacy announcing her condition of Facebook.  But those few phone calls started a ball rolling that like a snowball tossed gently down a fresh snow covered hill, grew larger while gathering size and speed until it would become an avalanche of love and support so great that people wanted to be consumed by its force and power. Humbling to the say the least.

 

Night rolled into day and I awoke, rolling off  the couch from hell to watch the nurses change out a fluid bag on my wife’s I.V. stand.  She awoke feeling fine, just a little tired and still ready to kick cancers ass!

By 11 the Dr. Truong had re-emerged bringing her infectious smile to our room.  We had a very nice conversation where she explained the importance of a spinal tap on Jacy to retrieve spinal fluid. The Spinal fluid would be tested to ensure no cancer had spread to jacy’s brain (this of course would be devastating) or was trapped within the spinal column. If so this would lead to a chemo treatment directly into the spinal column itself.  No one wanted that…

Jacy is still bouncing off the walls with positive attitude and posting pics of herself on Facebook.  This is good for her, as the higher her spirits for a longer period of time the better mental state she will be in when the chemotherapy really does make her sick. I sit patiently by her side, knowing that moment of nausea will come soon.  She has three “pushes” of high does chemo drugs to go through and the first is tonight.

At 5 pm the nurses assemble for the first “push”, they are covered in gowns and face masks, it looks as though this process should be a scary thing not a positive one. It lasts for 30 minutes, is monitored by nurses for any abnormalities within jacy’s vital signs and the nurses kick me out of the room when it happens.

Walking the halls I am sick to my stomach! I still can’t believe this happening to us! But I promised to be positive, so here goes. I am positive we are going to beat this! I am positive my wife is going to be fine. I am positive I will love this woman to the very end! I am positive I can handle all of this for myself, my wife, my family, and my friends.  I am positive we are going to kick cancers ass…

And it all starts right now!

 

 

 

The face of Leukemia

What does the face of Leukemia look like?

Have you ever wondered? Is it a conjured up image? Maybe one captured from a television show or 48 hours special? A poor soul, haggard, emaciated, pale, gaunt, one step near death. There are a dozen interpretations of what Leukemia looks like.

But I ask you?

Does this look like the face of Leukemia?

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Because it is……

This larger than life human being, my wife with the radiant smile and glowing eyes is the newest face of Leukemia.

Here is her story..

Will you come with me to my doctor appointment?

A question my wife has asked many times in our relationship and depending on the workload that day or severity of anxiety associated with the upcoming appointment, my answer is most always the same.  Yes

This time was different.

My wife has been sick on and off since coming home from Haiti in June. Being the incredibly strong-willed woman she is, it was always dismissed as exhaustion, a common cold or some viral snot delivered accumulation from booger flicking within the confines of her classroom.

Headaches, night sweats, red spots in her throat, swollen gums and an exhaustion level that just could no longer be ignored.  She had it all at some point. The final straw for superwoman came when she texted a dear friend and Haitian co-conspirator who happens to be her dentist. Having tired from the continued onslaught of over the counter drugs, sleepless nights and white spots in her throat, she caved in to ask for help. After a short dissertation in regards to symptoms the immediate response was; You need to go to the doctor!

She listened.

Blood drawn, panels sent to the lab and a phone call later we were summoned to drop what we were doing and return to hematology for a thorough screening in conjunction with a bone marrow draw.

A bone marrow draw? That means cancer right? Fear instantly ran through my wife like lightning! Together we made the trip to hematology and were introduced to a well spoken, polite young doctor that instantly understood our dry sense of humor.  (this always helps) She was fantastic, easing our minds, letting us know exactly what she was doing along the way.  After an hour I was dismissed from the room so they could retrieve bone marrow and complete the testing process.

During recovery, the doctor came in and told us she put a rush on the order and we should have lab results by Thursday a mere 48 hours later.

Walking silently towards our car we held positive thoughts.  A virus, that’s  all this could be, right? Just a mean old nasty virus! In Haiti, Jacy became extremely sick for two days and this just has to be some form of tropical bug! Yep a tropical bug that’s just hanging on wreaking havoc!

Sooner than later we would discover how wrong we both were.

The next day at noon while in the round pen working one of our many horses, my cell phone came alive. Answering a call where the first words are: “I’m coming home we need to talk” is never good, so when she said those exact words I begged her to please tell me what was wrong. To my surprise, she did.

Its cancer, I have leukemia so we need to head towards the hospital right away.

Its cancer? You have leukemia? What? Did I hear this correctly? No. That’s not what she said is it? I mean we talk almost everyday around lunch and I never remember her even slightly referring to these topics. How was your ride today? or How’s work going? or Man my classroom is filled with the most awesome kids! But never and I mean ever has the topic of cancer or leukemia been the center of conversation, let alone a fear filled opening statement.

Are you there? She asked me through shakey tear filled words.

Yep, was all I could muster. Chin quivering, tears streaming, face flush with heat and feeling like someone just kicked me in the balls. I continued to stand there afraid to move, afraid to blink, afraid to breathe.

Are you ok? I asked

No, was her reply. Of course no is the only reply to such an asinine question yet at the time it was all I could say without blubbering over the phone.

We talked for a minute about why the results came back so early and the importance of leaving for the hospital right away. A few moments later we solemnly said our goodbyes.  Putting my phone back into my pocket, I continued standing in the arena motionless as my horse worked herself. She continued running circles around me finally slowing to a trot, then a walk, looking at me as if she knew something was wrong. After a few minutes with no interaction from me she moved towards me and put her head in my hand. Animals know, animals that give love in return know how and when to move in at just the right moment. I hugged her back.

My wife cried some at work, gathered herself up and cried some more. Other teachers rallied around her as the news broke, spreading like wildfire across the small campus. She received a ride home from some great co-workers so she could pack for our newly, unplanned vacation getaway to Kaiser hospital. When she pulled in the driveway my heart stopped.

Once home we held each other and cried. We wondered how we were going to explain this to our kids, pondering who should know and who shouldn’t know, wondering when do we call our parents? What are we supposed to be doing? You hear about this stuff all the time but your arrogance never lets you believe it is going to happen to you!

Feeling so confused I didn’t know what to do, how to do it or even how I was supposed to act after finding out the woman I love has cancer. I mean it all seems pretty straight forward until it happens to you! Well none of it  mattered, because the news took on a life of its own and before it got out of hand (rumors and all) my wife made a preemptive strike by posting on Facebook exactly what was going on. It worked! We were able to let everyone we cared about know without any chance for misconceptions or the possibility of someone we care about not knowing or hearing third-party from someone else.

My wife has leukemia, my wife has leukemia, holy shit my wife has leukemia, no matter how you say it, it sounds ridiculous, preposterous, and impossible. My wife has leukemia.

Leukemia

Leukemia (American English) or leukaemia (British English) is a type of cancer of the blood or bone marrow characterized by an abnormal increase of immature white blood cells called “blasts”. Leukemia is a broad term covering a spectrum of diseases. In turn, it is part of the even broader group of diseases affecting the blood, bone marrow, and lymphoid system, which are all known as hematological neoplasms.
Leukemia is a treatable disease. Most treatments involve chemotherapy, medical radiation therapy, hormone treatments, or bone marrow transplant. The rate of cure depends on the type of leukemia as well as the age of the patient. Children are more likely to be permanently cured than adults. Even when a complete cure is unlikely, most people with a chronic leukemia and many people with an acute leukemia can be successfully treated for years. Sometimes, leukemia is the effect of another cancer, known as blastic leukemia, which usually involves the same treatment, although usually unsuccessful.
Leukemia can affect people at any age. In 2000 approximately 256,000 children and adults around the world had developed some form of leukemia, and 209,000 have died from it.[1] About 90% of all leukemias are diagnosed in adults.[2]
The name comes from Ancient Greek λευκός leukos “white”, and αἷμα haima “blood”

Wikipedia

Arriving at the hospital we were sent directly to a room on the fifth floor. She was told to put on the standard issue gown and relax.  We looked into each others eyes, held hands and sat together on the bed, waiting for someone, anyone to tell us something, anything. A couple who the day before yesterday was riding horses together without a care in the world was now sitting, scared, wondering about the future for ourselves, our children, and our family.

We wouldn’t have to wait long…