When did I become the “old guy”

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Silence interrupted by deafening sounds created within a brain refusing to disengage from endless chatter bleeding forth through a radio stationed not far from where my head lays motionless. A county never sleeps, fire departments responding here, rushing there, fellow brothers and sisters not even being afforded the very moment my stupid brain will not allow me to enjoy. Head filled with echo’s of each and every call they’re responding too, returning from or currently enveloped. Where is my family? Are they home yet? Which district boundary are they traveling through? Or have they nestled peacefully into bed? Whose family is wondering the very same thing without the same general knowledge my ears are so privy too at this very moment? It is my curse, my sleepless, frustrating, torturous curse.

Then it happens, as it has thousands of times during my 19 years of service, the warble tones scream, letting everyone know to cease radio traffic for another 911 call is being dispatched, you wait and wonder? Will it be our tones? Is it our turn? And then our tones ring, forceful and true, setting off a chain of events that could only be described as a technological ballet. A printer springs to life, chattering away, printing the story of our impending response; a light shines brightly inside each and every room of this glorified 6 car garage/hotel, awakening us, blinding us from darkness in conjunction with a horrifying bell whose sound is remnant of electricity coursing through your veins. Doors open, computer screens spring to life and it all crescendos with us, moving from the dead to the undead or in my case no man’s land, the neutral zone, or as some would say; a grey area of lifelessness. Yes we all begin to move, from those who actually are blessed with an ability to sleep at the drop of a hat to station zombies such as myself. We move, swagger, stagger, stumble and charge forth like an attack straight from “the living dead”.

Meet at the map board, wipe the sleep from your eyes, then identify a map page, cross street, address number, a house, business, parking lot, freeway, intersection, country residence. How do I get there, which way is fastest, what type of call is this? Is it a medical aid, structure fire, vegetation fire, vehicle accident, mutual aid, automatic aid, haz-mat, or a public assist? Is this another call we will see in our dreams for years to come, will we return home feeling accomplished as our training has once again paid forth with huge dividends or will we laugh at some absurdity only humanity or the human spirit can bring during a ride home?

Through the final door, at the rig, is everyone here, what gear are we donning, is everyone seated, are seatbelts in place, have I unplugged the shore lines, opened the bay doors, started the engine so Cap (the captain) can get on the radio? So many boxes to check off a list wedged inside my head.

Making a right turn onto the main thoroughfare, I grab a glimpse of the two seated directly behind Cap and I. They look like kids. It’s hard for me to believe this time has passed, I am no longer the fresh-faced lad; heart racing before each call, nervous to ask questions, pie eyed wondering what will await us upon arrival. They look so young, so damn young and yet even though I joke about my age on a regular basis (I am only 48), in reality I am not that old; I do not feel old in any way shape or form. Yet here we are inside this Engine, I seated in the engineers position and one of my closest friends now my boss seated to my right wearing the “red hat” or Captains helmet. WE are no longer the long-term future of this department, the up and comers buried in classes, spending thousands of hours and dollars obtaining every certification we can load into a leather binder for future uses. WE instead are now this department’s core, the steady, the constant, dare I say it? (Swallowing hard) The old guys…

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My graduating academy class 1995

In what feels like a millisecond I went from riding backwards to driving, from taking classes to teaching classes, from becoming an Engineer to an Acting Captain. Some days I am considered middle ground between Cap and crew other days I am the Captain with those around me looking for direction and advice. Are you kidding me? When did all this happen? What myriad of events led to someone handing me a red hat and saying today this crew is yours? What person ever thought of placing me behind the wheel of a 44,000 pound rig, then running it code three (lights and sirens) through the busy streets of town unabated? It is lunacy I tell you, pure lunacy!

I talk with college kids, fire academy kids, our new kids, probationary, first year and second year firefighters too. They all look so fresh-faced, innocent, not damaged by what is to come. They all retain the very same attitude we had, the same attitude those who came before us had, and the same attitude all that will ever pass through these hallowed halls after us will have. One of ignorant bravery, one of unabashed cockiness, an attitude that says I am here to help, to learn and nothing will ever hurt me. How little do they know, for no matter how much you inspire, mold, guide or lead “it” (that attitude) will be with them until one defining moment in time forces them into change.

It is the same for us “old guys” we see it in each other’s eyes, feel it through our words, and absorb it through a hug, a hand shake, a nod, a bad joke, a look. It comes with time on the job, experiences that for some may seem the same but in reality each and every experience in this line of work is dependent on the job. Each wrinkle upon our faces has been earned, each grey hair grown from the memory of something we’d rather forget. Eyes once steeled, are now softer, kinder a tad more gentle. We can’t talk about some portions of the job with anyone else but our peers. They are the only ones who understand and where a young one will sit and listen to tales with dreams of someday having stories of their own, us old guys hope they do create stories of their own, yet secretly hope in the same breath some of those stories never come true.

The young guys are loud and brash, quick to jump on a topic, any topic and beat it up with theory, formulas and standard operating procedures. Watching them from a distance I can only chuckle as they work out their problems and only through the rationale of an old guy are shown an easier, faster, less labor intensive way of completing the very same job. The young ones, smash and break things to reach their goal, the old ones walk gently, using a “try before they pry” philosophy. The young ones talk loudly, while drilling each other for knowledge, the old ones walk softly and speak only when needed. The young ones let everyone know when they are promoted things will change. The old ones let anyone who asks know; when they retire things will most certainly change.

The fire service is a young man’s game there is no doubt, but you need the wisdom of the old guys to not kill yourself participating in such a wonderful career. Creating memories of your own is important, good bad or otherwise but developing a bond with these people, this second family, well that’s what lasts a lifetime. I love these guys, would do anything for them, passing on that aspect of the fire service is every bit as important as how we do the job.

I don’t know where I am going with all this, it just seemed odd to me as another night passed, another round of service calls were answered and as I looked into the baby-faced gleaming eyes of those young firefighters surrounding me. That I in fact had transitioned from a young guy to one of the very guys we looked up to 20 years ago and now these kids are now looking up to me. WTF!

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I hope, no I pray I can do a good job filling those boots.

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48- How did that happen..

James Franceschi (AKA- Betty)

Born August 19, 1966

Chosen Profession (note I said “chosen”) Firefighter

Dream profession Writer

Betty is now 48 years old.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wish me luck only 728 days to go….

 

Thank you….

 

Today my heart is a tad heavy as I process two individuals that meant something to separate portions of my life. To help explain I am going to do something I don’t normally do; jump on the media bandwagon for one.  Then I will tell a tale of overwhelming gratefulness towards the other.

#1

Yesterday as we all know by now (if you were unaware I apologize for breaking it to you this way) Mr. Robin Williams ended his constant struggle with depression, taking his own life inside his home near San Francisco California.

Now for some this may mean nothing and judging by the overwhelming reaction through social media it is devastating to say the least for most.

I was first introduced to Robin Williams as a teenager of 13. His character introduced through Happy Days, then his own show Mork and Mindy was brilliant.  I could not wait to watch him, to sit with my family as we all of laughed to his crazy antics. He made Thursday nights one of the most popular nights in our house and the ability to watch his show a driving force in completing homework, chores or what ever else my mother could use as leverage.

Something most people don’t know is Robin Williams made me want to become a stand up comedian. I would practice jokes in the bathroom, jokes to our horses, jokes to a tree if I could.  For those who remember, he was the reason I practiced impressions of people or cartoons or who ever I felt I could impersonate. I laid in bed dreaming of standing on stage, being crazy and giving people the gift of laughter. In groups of friends he is the sole reason I learned to tell a good tale, just to make you laugh. Alas, I am not that funny, it wasnt my calling, fear plagued me from performing and I would only cautiously do impersonations if I knew you and felt comfortable enough to do so.

Fast forward 7 years.

I was lucky enough to meet mister Williams at the Sonoma Mission Inn one evening over a dinner being hosted by some notable people.  He was kind, friendly and as always genuinely funny.  Working there I met plenty of celebrities and most were arrogant, full of themselves and came across as though they were special.  Not Mr. Williams. In one evening over a few hours Mr. Williams showed he was an everyday guy with an incredible gift. To make people laugh.

Today

Yesterday when I heard the news it hit me in the stomach, like losing a war hero, an astronaut, someone we ALL have come to idolize in one way or another. Yes he wasnt a personal friend or family member, but for some reason he feels like one.  Like a long-lost relative you knew about, heard about but never saw.  I have him to thank for bringing me out of my shell as a child, something I am sure he has done for countless individuals.  So many people (myself included) wish we could be that crazy, wish we could make people laugh with such power, such animation, such free-spirited will! I know I do.

The world has lost a wonderful, innovative, amazingly funny human being. There is no one person of his caliber to follow in those shoes. For that I am sad…. For that the country shall mourn.  May the heavens glow under this mans light.

#2

His name: Roger “Deets” Winslow

Many of you have never heard of Roger “Deets” Winslow or Deets as we all knew him.  I found out last night the Napa county sheriffs office was searching for his body at the bottom of Lake Berryessa following some type of boating accident.

Now I could give you all the very same stories that most who knew him are expounding at this very moment, (awesome dad, super great coach, best of friends, etc..) but I wont. The reason I am struggling with the news of what appears to be his passing is quite simple.

I never was able to say thank you..

Once again through life spinning at a hundred miles an hour, turning in multiple directions, and never making it a priority. Quite simply I never was able to say thank you.  High school was struggle for me as I have explained on numerous occasions.  There were three individuals that saved me. Two saved me my sophomore year, and one saved me my junior year. What did they save me from? Myself.

Kurt Hornaday (rest in peace buddy) and Deets Winslow.

These two men saw a kid who wasnt doing well, couldn’t stand up for himself, had a mouth the size of texas, and took him (me) under their wings.  They both introduced me to wrestling, they both took the time to become friends with a underclassmen, and they both helped guide me through my junior year; while letting me continue to write checks with my mouth that couldn’t be cashed, then teaching me (through friendship) how to right those wrongs.

The third person was Deets dad-Mr. Roger Winslow.  I joined the wrestling team my junior year because of Kurt and Deets, Roger was the coach. I know he wanted to boot me from the team, I was weak, not fast, had no real comprehension when it came to drills, but he kept me, pushed me, and made me believe I could be better than I was every single practice.  I only won a single JV match that entire year, but coach Winslow made me feel as though I had won the championship.  He still resonates within me to this day and his coaching abilities/skills are why I became a coach and why the kids I have coached have had such a great time.

Deets and Kurt were friends, they were mentors, they were honest wonderful side by side buddies that would do anything for you at the drop of a hat.  My senior year I struggled without their presence.  Dont get me wrong I was surrounded by awesome people, spectacular friends who put up with me besides myself, but without that straight and honest advice whenever I felt I was straying or doing wrong, that year emotionally and physically (I hurt my knee pretty bad, the first few weeks of wrestling practice and just never came back) I was lost.

I never was able to thank Deets, I don’t think he even knew the impact he and Kurt had on my young messy life.  I was never able to thank Kurt either and found out about his passing through a dear friend.  I once again have procrastinated way to long…

Rest in peace my friend.  May your family find some comfort through the lives you touched..

So there it is, I apologize for it being a bit messy, with a few run on sentences and goofy content. The main point is this; Dont procrastinate, tell those who are important to you, that helped you get to where you are; Thank you.  They don’t do it for the recognition, they do it because they were raised right, held empathy in their hearts and cared about passing those feelings on to others.

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It is your time….

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

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

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

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

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

Do you see yourself doing GREAT THINGS!

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

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

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

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

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Graduation Day

This week has come and gone, a moment in time a memory for recollection. 13 years of life, tied so closely with friends, teachers, sleep overs, field trips, sporting events and many peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I cant believe this day arrived so soon and left in such haste. Your school life started out simple enough; tears of separation, happiness upon returning home from a half day of school. Full days and mounds of homework, new friends, old friends, friends who moved, sadness and joy. Skinned knees, new bikes, scooters, baseball, the park. Swim meets, wrestling, cross-country events, awards, disappointment, contentment and successes.

Days where I felt we were losing you, days were we knew it was all going to be alright and days of unbridled pride watching you do what you do. Time spent, heart-broken, filled with sadness as reprimanding you or having to raise my voice while losing my temper as a last resort secretly brought me to my knees. Reflections of my father I choose to leave hidden in darkness. Time wondering if I spent enough time with you, if you needed me and I just didn’t pick up on it or if you are content with the time we have spent together? Happy with how it has all turned out?

Here we sit third row up, middle section staring directly at a stage you shall soon cross with pride. I didn’t sleep last night, worried I would over sleep and miss the opening of this venue to stake out my territory, claim a prime vantage point for this most important of days. 5 am I rose, fed our animals then slipped off into the morning, ensuring our seating success.

It has been a hard year for our family, we have all struggled, physically and emotionally and you son have not been immune. Yet somehow you kept a level head and completed this 13 year journey all on your own.  I sat staring at that stage, wondering how it must feel for you? What emotions are worming their way through your brain?

This is after all a very special day, no pressure or anything. The 100th class to graduate from Dixon High School, The first in our family to head off to college and thirty years to the day from when your father finished high school. To say I am proud of all you have done, accomplished and survived at such a young age is an understatement. You are my hero son, there is nothing more I could ever have asked for in regards to you.

A friend at work asked if I was going to cry during the ceremony, and of course a terse “no” came quick and fast.  Not losing any man points within the confines of my firehouse, no way! In truth, I didn’t cry, but not because any lack of emotion existed, or due to a hardened soul. Instead my chest was filled with immense pride, for you had done it! You graduated high school, you applied to and were accepted by the colleges of your choice, you asked for help when you needed it and handled any issues you felt you could handle alone.  You son don’t need us to hold your hand anymore and that is nothing to cry about! Instead it is a sign of success for us as parents, it is what this entire journey is all about! Creating, molding, testing, and yes being frustrated with this living being, this boy you brought into the world. Hoping and praying in the end you have done all that you can to ensure when he walks out the door he will do the best he can, stand upon his own two feet and find a world not molded by callous misplaced prejudice, but one molded by his own experiences, using your guidance as a key. Nothing more.

You walked across the stage, the principal read your name; cheers from family and friends erupted and echoed through the stands. Cody James Franceschi high school graduate. A summer lay before you, a weight has been lifted and the relaxation of a job well done is definitely showing across your face. I love you son and I always will. Your mom and I have done everything within our power to help create this person you see in the mirror. We know you have become your own man, but know this. The phone is always in your pocket, we will always be at the other end of the line and just because you will no longer be able to walk out your bedroom door to ask us a question doesn’t mean you cannot find a quiet place and call us, anywhere, anytime. For though we have worked hard to get you to this point, your mother and I have countless reams of knowledge to share with you still. In the end my hope is you will still need us, still feel as though you can ask us anything, whether near or far, what ever it takes we will be there. You are our son, there is no other like you and for that we are incredibly thankful to God! We love you…

Now lets talk about the second week of August when you go off to college.

Wait! What is this wet stuff streaming from my eyes? There is something in my eye! There is something in my eye! “sniff sniff”.

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The Face of Leukemia…. The call…

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The call came through, I stared as it rang, the glaring eyes of my wife looking back through a pixel image formed from technology. Only 90 minutes into my shift I was fairly certain this call would center around a current general lack of respect shown by our children as of late. Between Jake’s consistent arguing, instagramming, snapchattering, compulsive behavior, or Jessica’s continual chip on her shoulder aimed at the entire world, Parkers inability to rise above 4 years of age at times and Cody’s, well Cody being Cody, it was fairly obvious a parental conference to line up our offensive, gathering ammunition and supplies for after school encounters was on the horizon.

Yet when answering the phone there was not the snap of an edgy, irritated Cuban woman whom I have grown so fond of but instead all that could be heard was a whimper. A demure, silent, almost mouse like squeak from the other end of the line. I sat up from my chair quickly, startling my co-workers as I pronounced; Jacy whats wrong! Still just a whisper, almost unrecognizable in stillness. Again even more stern, my tone changing with the rapid fire of my heart rate: JACY HONEY WHAT IS WRONG? ARE YOU OK?

With the whisper of an angel, a serene, quiet message arrived within the confines of my almost deaf, aging ears.

Its gone….

Whats gone? What is gone? Who? Is your dad ok? Is my dad ok? Are there any animals missing? What is gone? I don’t understand!

It is gone, fumbles from her lips one more time. The sound of a cracked voice, a strained quivering lip, a sniffle as mucus forms to join a plunging tear.

Honey, she called, it is gone, the cancer, its gone!

Is this a joke? Wait how does she know, man I wish I had another cup of coffee this just isn’t making sense!

Then it hits me. Three days before we went in for what we prayed would be the final bone marrow draw to determine if Jacy was indeed cancer free or if we were headed to Stanford for more Chemotherapy and an eventual bone marrow transplant. In those three days, with all that had been transpiring around us, I callously had forgotten.

ITS GONE! ITS FREAKING GONE! THE CANCER IS GONE!!!

Slowly but surely, my voice raises, not able to contain my happiness a shout of joy can be heard throughout the firehouse as I turn to my crew, my brothers, the family I spend one-third of my life with, the same family that supported our family 100% over the last six months. It is gone I say, the cancer is GONE!!!! Everyone is excited, I am excited, my heart is pounding, I can’t catch my breath, It is gone…

I tell my wife I love her, we both cry. A feeling of weight lifts from my shoulders, I want nothing more than to run away from work, go hug my wife and spend the day with her, talking about something we havent talked about in six long months.

The future.

My wife, my friend, Jacy Mirelle Franceschi was given a challenge six long months ago. The challenge was to beat Cancer. In that time she accepted, rejected and accepted that very challenge several times over. I knew my wife had it in her, she is the strongest, most stubborn woman I have ever met! I prayed a lot in the beginning, not for me, but strength for her. I coined a phrase and we adopted that phrase. Kicking cancers ass one cell at a time! A dear family friend formed an Army, and with it Jacys Army came to life, bringing support and love, along with a town that surrounded us. We (Jacy and I) never have done anything special, we both did not feel we deserved this attention but it didn’t matter, one by one they all came to our aid, joining Jacys army, supporting this cause and it worked! We did it, we ALL did it! My wife kicked cancers ass one cell at a time!

The cancer is gone. How we both longed to hear those words.

Yes, AML can return, Yes we will be ever vigilant for the rest of our lives, one wrong sniffle, a feeling of being run down, a blood draw or marrow test will never be missed. But today, moving forward, the woman I love is cancer free!

Feeling like Rocky Balboa after a fight, fist raised in the air, screaming for Adrian, but he just cant get to her. That is the way I felt at work when I got the call. The battle was over, the victor stood tall, but I just couldn’t get to my love to tell her how I felt, to have her look into my eyes and reconfirmed it to be true. Oh well it appears I just may have the rest of my life to do just that.

The cancers gone, the cancer is gone.

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To my family, friends and co-workers, to the citizens of Dixon, to the followers of my blog and to everyone who held a kind word, said a prayer, shook my hand, hugged me, told me all would be ok. To Jacys Army, the meal train participants, the fundraisers, to all the wonderful cancer survivors I have spoken with, thank you. Thank you all from the bottom of my heart. It is because of all of you that we survived this incredible ordeal. I love you all… 

Does the sun set on Leukemia?

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“To run and fly, jump towards the sky, to trip and fall where no one see’s at all, to sit and wait a heart truly aches, to smile and cheer dread no longer feared, mired not in contempt an energy much better spent, to enjoy every moment with my wife, now wouldn’t that be a splendid life…”

The sun has risen and set upon 180 days, 4,320 hours, 259,200 minutes, 15,552,000 seconds. Time that for most was nothing more than a passing blip in an otherwise hectic day. Coming events, moments sectored into fragments, blocks, bullet points upon a schedule where children are dropped at school, animals are fed, meetings are kept, practices attended, showers to be had and pillows to be slept upon.

The sun rose and the sun set. Under a bright fall moon one woman gazed upon the stars to ask why? To cry tears of fear, sadness and remorse. A woman pleaded with her God for an answer but was left momentarily in silence. A woman stared into a nights sky, thinking about childhood, college, adulthood and the love for a life lived. Hoping beyond hope all this would be was another bump in the road and she would live to see her adult children stand on a balcony under a full moon and not ask God why, but say thanks for all he has provided.

180 days. A man knelt in an arena and cried. Not for himself for you see he has walked the road of sadness many, many times in his life. But for his wife. This man who lives to ease his families burdens and carry their pain could do nothing to make this next challenge in life any easier. He could not reach inside his wife and yank out the evil that surged within, instead he would need to remain patient. To willingly wait, and know when to speak and when to say silent. To understand he could not fix everything and that was ok. As those 180 days passed by slowly without rest or sleep, he would come to value the meaning of just being there by her side and knowing that was enough. He learned to cradle and quietly without judgment let the water flow upon his chest through sobbing breaths. He would become stronger with each bought, each treatment and the ensuing moral disintegration of spirit. This man, he also prayed to stand hand in hand with his wife while watching their adult children thank the lord for all he has provided.

The sun rises and the sun sets. How many more days remain? An answer none of us know, will know or should know. Life is a gift of love. It started with our parents, two people who at one time loved each other so much we came to fruition. Some parents still love each other that much, others sadly do not, but either way we are here, living breathing examples of a look, a word, a time, a kiss an embrace.  Carrying on a legacy that is ours to write, shape, mold into a future for ourselves and quite possibly through the absolute love of another, our children.

Jacy is alive, Leukemia has not taken her from this earth. 180 days of literal HELL she has survived thus far. We are told she holds the perfect genetic markers for success. In two more weeks another bone marrow draw will provide proof in the proverbial pudding. Two years cancer free and our celebrations will become larger with each passing moment in time.

She worries about damage done, all she has lost both mentally and physically, she worries she may never feel whole again. To those worries I say:

“Gentlemen, we can rebuild her. We have the technology. We have the capability to build the world’s first bionic Leukemia survivor. Jacy Franceschi will be that woman. Better than she was before. Better, stronger, faster.” images

Sorry, late 70’s humor..

Two years, a little by little everyday until this all becomes a story of survival, a distant memory, an experience to draw upon during life’s trials and tribulations. Sure it will be difficult, yes it will become frustrating and even embarrassing at times, but in the end, my wife will be whole.  My life will be whole again, and how I long for that day.

Thank you again to all who have supported us, never left our sides as the going continued to get rough.  This is the end, I feel it in my bones. In two weeks celebrations of joy will ring true and none of it could have been done without all of you! You are all my Rock, helping hold me up so I may continue to be hers.  I love you all, you know who you are!

The power of thought and prayer is amazing! God bless you all…

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Betty (James) has entered a new venture to help make ends meet during this trying time. I am proud to say I am now a distributor for Javita Weight Loss Coffee products. Javita Green Tea has kept me running strong through every hospital trip, late night Emergency Room run and long days handling the ranch, kids and sporting activities alone! I can’t say enough about this great product.

So if you are looking to lose a few pounds by simply drinking coffee, or need the mental stimulation and health benefits of pure unrefined green tea. Then please take a moment and explore http://www.buyjavitacoffee.com/javabetty and order some today. You wont be sorry. I promise, plus every purchase made helps keep my wife home a little longer for recovery.

Bless you all,

Betty

The Face of Leukemia

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The face of Leukemia is smiling…

Which must mean Cancer is losing….

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http://www.myjavita.com/javabetty

 

Keep Calm, its only been five months..

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More to come, God bless you all…

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Nurse Betty….

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

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

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

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

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

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

Scared you didn’t I?

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

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

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

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

It is love….