I have become afraid.

I over think things, I really do. I try my hardest not too, but I am the guy who lays in bed all night long thinking, and thinking, and thinking, until I pass out! Of course then I wake up in the morning and start thinking about whatever the hell it is I was thinking about before I went to bed and thus the process starts all over again! Phew, I had to think about that for a minute..

So here is my problem.

When I think about Jacy, most of the time I no longer see her in my mind sick, in pain and getting weaker by the day. My brain for some reason has me grieving our life prior to Leukemia. You know, she is a mom, I am a doting husband, we date twice a week, have rodeo, Criners arena, Sugarland and lots of bbq’s with friends. Also on the flip side my brain is inundating me with Stanford visits and Kaiser Hospital runs/rituals acquired over the last 5 years. So that seems pretty confusing doesn’t it?

Let me rephrase or clarify the upper statement.

It has come to my attention that if I am in a crowd, or shopping, or any place there are people, I begin remembering moments from another time and Jacy being with me, or have memories of us doing things together in conjunction with “whatever” activity I am participating. She is healthy, and so damn beautiful and it crushes whatever spirit I had towards the activity I am trying my hardest to participate in! I begin looking for her desperately in the eyes of every woman that passes by me, every woman with her back to me, I search and search and I can’t find her in the crowd so my heart rate goes up, then I can’t breathe, I am afraid and just when things seem like they couldn’t get any worse they do! I find myself running for cover trying to hide so no one can see I am falling apart on the inside! Then it just happens, and I can’t stop it! I cry.

Crying is absolutely ok. I am rational enough to know that, but I don’t want the attention. I simply want to do so without anyone checking on me and when you are in a large crowd with nowhere to hide that simply is not possible. So I try swallowing it down, hard, which just makes it worse. Because as the tide comes and goes, if the waves are held back to long eventually one massive wave will break onto the shore.

Yeah picture that! So fun.

My face hurts, my chest hurts, I swear my heart is going to explode, I start sweating, I can’t breathe and then it happens, over and over again, her face flashes, events flash, her smile, her kiss, her hand in mine, I can’t fucking take it!!! I can’t see her and my head starts spinning!! Then just like that, it’s gone. She is gone and it’s like someone lifted it all off my shoulders, until something else sets it off and it starts all over again.

I went to Nevada City today to celebrate Christmas with my son since I really haven’t been feeling it at all. I was excited, he was excited; we walked past the entry sign and into the crowd. The deeper we went I felt the tightening in my chest. I began searching. For her…

Parker shopped away as one woman after another passed me and although no one even remotely looked like my wife there was something, some kind of resemblance; a dress, the shoes, the way she walked, a smile. Stupid really, but it only furthered my need to find Jacy! I become irrational, saying things to myself like; She would have loved this place, the smells, the people, oh my, she would have been talking to every stranger she could in every shop or booth! I knew she just simply had to be there! She couldn’t be dead there is no way my wife, the strongest fucking person I have ever known could be FUCKING DEAD!!! WHAT THE FUCK!!!!

Turning the corner looking for a place to run and there in the window of a shop is a pair of shoes. Not just any pair of shoes, but clogs, her favorite and they were decorated and colored and she would have loved them and I would have bought them for her for Christmas because we loved Christmas, and church and Christmas eve pajamas and snow balling our friends and FUCK, FUCK, FUCKITY, FUCK!!!!

But see it doesn’t get better either.

The second part is when I am driving. That’s when I run through five years of hospital rituals, three years of Stanford Hospital rituals. Sneaking her hamburgers when she wasn’t supposed to eat them. Playing words with friends for hours, watching Survivor, quite literally ever single season-twice. Spending all those moments together with machines beeping and nurses coming and going and holding her hand through it all. Listening intently and calming her down as she tells me to please murder the next nurse that puts her on bed alarm! Telling her I loved her a hundred million times, not because I had too, or was afraid she wouldn’t know but because I wanted too. The way when you are first in love and you say those words it feels magical. Yeah like that, every time. Even when things weren’t going well. That’s the way it felt for me. I haven’t heard those words back for 50 days now. It is killing me inside.

I had to go to Kaiser the other day for me. It took me 15 minutes to get out of the truck and go inside. I even parked in the wrong place because I was on auto pilot. Once inside I wanted to run away. I never want to be inside that building again. Either of them. It’s irrational and I know I am going to need to get over it but I can’t right now. Every corner I see her, in a wheel chair, waiting for me to push her into an elevator. Or sitting around the corner waiting for a blood draw. I see the same faces of the same ladies working at reception who helped her and I pray no one makes eye contact with me. I know they won’t know who I am, but if they look at me I will feel like I am supposed to walk up and say; hi good morning, yes Jacy Franceschi at 10:30-04039018. Thanks yes I know where the paperwork goes.

If I drive towards the city it’s all I can do not to head towards Stanford. Again partly on auto pilot and partly because I still feel like she is there and this is all one big misunderstanding! There is no way she is gone, there is no way she is dead; there is no way she is in this wood box sitting behind me! The summation of her physical being bound into a bag with a copper tag and number that have the earrings she was wearing taped to it! There is just no way!!! They said it was a 10/10 match!!! She had the very best odds. They said that, I heard it!! They said she was going to live and there was only the slightest of chances things could go wrong! I heard that too!!!! They fucking said it!!!

I want someone to wake me from this horrible dream. PLEASE!!!!

Listen, I know they said a ton of other things as well, but it is just where I am right now. I don’t blame them, everyone was amazing to us and our family.

I just want my wife back! Can I go to heaven just for the day? (yeah like the song) Just so I can make sure she is ok? It was my job for so long it just feels so unfinished, and yet that is exactly what it has become. Just a day so I can come back and take care of the kids knowing she is all right. That’s all I ask..

Oh well, I guess I will just have to assume.

Listen, I know it will get easier over time. I don’t know how long that is going to be and really I don’t care. I loved her for 17 years, she was my very best friend and I will love her still, no matter where life takes me. I will never quit loving her, or the memory of her, I just wish for a while, I could turn my brain off and quit being afraid.

Advertisements

A Little Christmas message..

Christmas has always been my favorite holiday of the year.Lights, trees, church, love, family and all the wonders that come with celebration.

Over the last five years we have struggled to make it the very best Christmas we can. Some years we did a stellar and I mean a flat out,old college try, jaw dropping successful experiment in making things work bringing love and joy into an otherwise really shitty situation! Then other times we just muddled through taking selfies and tons of family pics simply to prove we did our very best.

In the long run or the end game as it were, this did turn into a blessing as we have some sense of just how much we all loved Jacy and our family through this hell we were living. Don’t get me wrong, we knew just how much we loved everyone, and know it to this day. I genuinely love every one of our families to no end! But trying, even when you don’t want to and it feels just wrong is 100% the right thing to do.

 So here we are, December 5, 2018, 47 days since my sweet Jacy left us to be with God.

Guess what?

I don’t want too.

Yup, that’s right, my favorite holiday and I simply don’t want too. I am trying my hardest to find the joy in this moment. I made it through Thanksgiving which is by far not one of my favorite holidays, but I just don’t feel it.

Parker got out the fake tree last night. We always put up a fake tree right away in the room where the wood stove is in so you can see it when you come downstairs in the morning. He drug out all the ornaments and put up the lights. I was proud of him for taking the lead and I told him so. I chose to put my feelings aside and help him, because as his father, regardless of my personal feelings I need to set an example and I know that for the same reason I don’t want it, he really does.

While we dug around in the closet for the “cheap” ornaments that go on the fake tree. I knocked a shelf and a hat box fell onto my head. It burst open and inside was every single love letter I had ever written my wife.I had no idea she had kept them all. I knew of several hat boxes and their contents, but this one I hadn’t seen. I stood jaw open as I picked them up carefully and started to read them to myself.

By the end of it, an hour had gone by, I was balling again as my heart poured out to my wife within the confines of those pages. One of them had her lipstick on the bottom as though she had kissed it after reading it.

What she never knew was I kept every letter she ever wrote tome. My favorite being a single page left under her pillow for me to find (she knew I would because I make the bed every morning) after she left for Haiti on her first trip. I read them all, the cards too. I saved the one from Haiti for the end.

I cried some more.

Now this is where you think I probably went into a very deep and dark rabbit hole. Oh I am sad, so very sad but not for what you think.

You see I believe she was there and knocked that box on top of me. I believe she needed me to see it, to feel it and to put her letters and mine together to better help me understand that although I am alone now, this love was never as one sided as it feels without her here. I believe she was telling me in her own way to not be sad for what’s lost but cry tears of joy for what we had together. I know this because that is exactly what she wanted.

I cannot believe a guy like me was able to have a woman like her. She was my best friend in the whole world. How lucky was I to not only be married to an amazing human being, a kind giving soul, but someone who was not only the absolute love of my life brought together by God, but my very best friend as well! What we shared, I only wish everyone could feel that, to hold that, to grasp it tight and realize that you are indeed the lucky one!

I put them all away. I cried for a very long time because I do miss her so, so much! I do feel as though I still can’t do this without her but I know I will, it is just who I am and I know it’s one of the many reasons she loved and believed in me. I just need to believe in myself and that will come with time.

I am going to do my best to make Christmas happy, or as happy as it can be for our family. I will carry forward our love, it will suck Christmas morning as there was no mom happier than her watching her children tear apart gifts and laugh together.

I will try. I promise.

Jacy if you have anything else hidden that you need me to find, could you please wait until after the first of the year? I am pretty dehydrated from crying so damn much..

Thanks, I love you…

A letter from Betty

Hello everyone,

It has been no secret that I am struggling. I know it’s only been a month (in 3 days), or holy cow it’s been a month already since Jacy passed away? I guess it depends on your point of view. There has been more support for our family than one person deserves and I am very thankful for all the love.

The truth is, I was ready to quit writing after the last posting.

I stared at my pen name- Betty

I no longer wanted it.

Jacy called me Betty all the time. When I got to laughing and right before I hit full blown snorting, to my wife, my laugh sounded like Betty Rubble. It is a name I have worn with great pride.

I still don’t hear it, but that’s not what’s important. What is important is she thought that, and that is love, small and insignificant, but love none the less. I felt like as she died, it should die with her.

Quite a few people in our tight reign never have understood my need to write publicly. To express my feelings for the world to see. The reality is the only people seeing it are those who know us or have heard about us through friends.  I started this blog I think in 2011. I started it as a way to communicate my perspective on being a father. A single father most of the time, as my wife was a single parent most of the time as well. You see between her teaching and me being a firefighter not only with lots of time off but gone during the summer a lot because of overtime or strike team assignments, I felt the fathers perspective was important on raising children semi-alone. Of course we were never really alone, there were more times we were all together as a family than not, and what an amazing family my wife and I have been blessed to create.

As I am writing this it dawns on me that she is going to miss so much, and that is tearing me apart.

Little did I know it (the blog) would morph into something completely different a short 2 years later, thus The Face of Leukemia was born. This is where I am struggling. My need to write publicly came about because I felt after looking around on the web post diagnosis there was nothing, and I mean nothing for the spouse of a Leukemia patient!! There was the obligatory stories on how to support your ill spouse, but nothing in regards to what you really will face emotionally and long term if things go that direction. It drove me nuts!

Also let me preface with something if you will. The man I am today is nothing like the man I was before my wife got her hands on me. She worked very hard on this human being, I have never refuted that for an instant! They say:  behind every good man stands an amazing woman.

I say; standing alongside every good person stands a very patient, devoted spouse.

That is because both of you should complement the other. She complimented me every single day by striving to make me the very best human being I could possibly be and she never once quit me. Make no mistake, I never made it easy for her, but she persevered. I love her so much, and miss her horribly. Not having her here when I need help is terrifying.

I digress

So finding nothing for Leukemia spouses, I hoped, no I prayed that if I wrote about how I was feeling, the struggles we both were facing, the highs and the lows, the triumphs and unfortunately the failures, someone, anyone would see it and not feel alone. Jacy supported me in this because after reading a few, then following every single one I wrote she knew in her heart it would help others and really all my wife ever wanted out of life was to help others, each and every day. We had a few that were too much for her to read and near the end she asked if I would stop writing about her all together. It was because as she read my postings she knew her time was becoming short. It was scary and hard to imagine. She had always been such a fighter and coming to terms with what would be the ultimate loss was more than she could bear. I honored that promise.

I feel as though my job is done. I feel dismayed over what lays ahead, and I swear to you, if you are reading this, I have never meant to make anyone cry. I hear that a lot and it weighs heavy on my soul. One of the things my wife loved and hated about me is that I have absolutely no filter. I say what I feel. She loved it because during our entire marriage she always knew where I stood on just about everything. She hated it at times because in the beginning I didn’t know how to temper it, or turn it off for it may create an inappropriate moment. But as with everything she did, she worked hard and rounded my sharp edges. Yet I still feel awful when I know my words or feelings have hurt another through my writings and I think that is the public portion others don’t or will never understand. Because to get to that point you need to put it all on the table and to do so takes away any privacy in just about any matter. I made our struggles very public. So with that, the question which has been hanging on me is; do I keep on? Is there a reason too? Would she want me too?

Do I stop being Betty because the only person who knew me, I mean truly knew me as Betty, called me Betty and professed her endless love to Betty is gone?

Do I carry on with Betty as a remembrance or tribute to my amazing wife?

Do I just keep crying every time I hear her voice in my head telling Betty to come over and give her a kiss because she is proud of me?

Do I keep writing hoping I still have something to say that will help another?

What the fuck do I do?

Seriously where is she to tell me what the fuck to do!!!!

This morning I awoke from a dream. It was such a great dream! She and I were together, walking hand in hand, the kids were small and running around through a forest. She was telling me all about her day at the Montessori school and how the kids emotionally filled her gas tank and how she loved each and every one of them as her own. In the middle of the conversation she looked at me, held my face and told me just how much she loved me and how she appreciated that writing about her was helping so many others. I was confused because I didn’t know (in the dream) what she was talking about.

When I awoke at 5:30 this morning, as though someone had hit me in the face. I laid there and cried a little because the dream was so real and she wasn’t there next to me. Then I began remembering the dream, and feeling sorry for myself until I came to that portion in the woods. The recollection was powerful and strong. She was talking to me, not at me, or with me, but to me, Betty her husband.

I listened.

So Betty is going to stay around for a while if you’ll have me? I’ll probably be writing about how much I miss her, figuring out who I am and trying to unlock the mystery of how we move forward from here without quite possibly the best person I have ever known in my life by my side. I really do hope that if this blog still reaches just one, then I suppose my job is done.

Also for those wondering I have set a deadline for a finished product on “the book” for the end of December. Figure maybe that’s a sign for a good new year. Lord knows this cursed family needs a least one. And again in the New Year we will begin the process of starting a Jacy’s Army foundation. Starting with scholarships and we’ll see where it goes from there, but I absolutely refuse to let the random acts of kindness my wife performed every single day, disappear form this earth.

Know my fellow AML. Leukemia, BMT friends you are not alone, these are real emotions, real feelings, and although in the end it didn’t turn out the way any of us had hoped, it can still turn out well for you and others just like yourself.

If you enjoy reading this blog, then take what you can, make it your own, and pass forward the love. Because really isn’t that why we are here on this earth? To help others?

God bless you all,

Jacy’s Betty……..

The Face of Leukemia belongs to another………

Oh god! It’s happening right now!!! It’s happening right now! Oh my god, oh my god, holy shit, I’m not ready, or lord I’m not ready!!! Please don’t go, PLEASE DON’T FUCKING GO, YOU CANT LEAVE ME, YOU CANT LEAVE, PLEASE BABY PLEASE D O N ’T  G O…………..

I… love … you….

Time of Death (TOD) 12:10

Date: 10/20/2018

No it’s not a reality show, or some made up Holly wood bullshit and I am not writing a paragraph for some future best seller!

It’s the playlist running through my head every day since my wife succumbed to GvHD or Graft vs Host Disease one week ago. GvHD, a nasty derivative of a Bone Marrow Transplant post Leukemia diagnosis.

I have been a firefighter for 23 years. Nothing, and mean NOTHING prepared me for those 30 seconds as I watched the woman I loved, cared for through sickness and health, good times or bad, take her final, gasping, breath at 12:10 on a bed she made me swear she would never be in (hospice provided hospital bed) in the transformed living room of the place she loved more than anything-her home.

I cannot even begin to tell you the number of people I have personally witnessed perish. I cannot tell you the number of people I have personally watched suffer in agony as the one they loved slipped away. I cannot tell you the number of times I drove back to the station after an incident, filled with sadness for those people and sluffed it away with humor or companionship from my fellow co-workers.

I cannot tell you how badly all of it hurt and came to a head at 12:10 on Saturday the 20th 2018.

The storyline if there was one should read: quietly I wept by her side knowing she was in a better place, free from pain, one with God. I took comfort in knowing these things and because of this knowledge was able to open up and allow others to grieve by her side.

But this isn’t a storyline! This is my life..

If I hadn’t been in a chair, I would have fallen to the floor, If my sons hadn’t been by my side I would have crawled under the bed, but make no mistake, I wailed, I sobbed, I kissed her face, over and over, and over again, just praying for one last look, one last mumble, one last anything.

There was nothing. She was gone, I was crushed, my heart is consumed with pain, I feel immeasurable guilt for the multiple hours she spent alone, trapped in this house as I ran from one place to another, and the thought of living life without my center, my navigational north by my side is unbearable.

Today is the one week anniversary of her death.

I have made it a week. The house is empty, oh so empty. I still am not used to the silence associated with no medical equipment running, no sounds of her coughing or calling my name for assistance. I need more than anything to hear her making dumb jokes, asking if I think GvHD has made her sexy or wanting nothing more than a cheek snuggle. I pace around in the morning early, trying my best to fight the urge to go downstairs and check on that fucking empty room.

This is NOT how she would have wanted me to be. I sit in her room and tell her I am sorry, I tell her I promise as time goes on I will get stronger, but right now I am mourning. I have come to realize I am not mourning just the loss of my wife, my best friend, a person who gave so much of herself to those around her which in turn made me a better man. I am mourning the past, the five years lost, filled with sickness, Stanford, Kaiser and such. Date nights, alone time, reconnection, weekends, and walks around the property, loading up and taking horses anywhere or nowhere at all. I am mourning what we didn’t have for 4 of those five years. I am mourning what we will never have again. I am mourning for my children, for my grandchildren and that is what hurts the most. That woman lived for babies, for being a presence in their lives and the thought of my grandchildren never meeting their goofy, fun loving grandmother. The thought makes me sad, so sad, as if I am drowning in a perpetual sea of sadness.

I am sad my son’s wives will never know the true unfiltered love of a mother in law with no agenda. I am sad my daughter won’t have her mother at her side on her wedding day.

And I am angry.

The hardest part for me is why? I am not supposed to know the answer, I am supposed to believe and follow faithfully. My faith has always been strong. How many times must a man suffer? How many times must a family suffer? What is it I am supposed to learn from all of this?

My whole life I have wanted nothing more than a family, to marry, grow, and together step through the seasons of life. To celebrate 50 years of marriage, to celebrate weddings, anniversaries, births and birthdays. To have a ranch where they all come together with their children built upon the seeds their mother and I threw into the mix. To die an old couple knowing we did our best, grew our crop and watched it flourish to harvest together.

To pass on our love, compassion and set an example for our future Franceschi generations.

I have been robbed, she has been robbed, and our children have been robbed. For that I am angry.

She would tell me to knock it off! To not be angry, we all knew this was a possibility, that she did this for no other reason than to be by her children for one more day, to hear their voices and feel their presence for one more day. She would tell me she succeeded and that it quite simply was time to go. She had a funny way of always knowing. She just had a way. I loved her for it.

Right now, I wish she was here, for 7 days later, I really need her to help show me the way…

The Face of Leukemia now belongs to another.

Picture taken at 11:30 am. 40 minutes before she slipped away.

An Incredible Journey

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

God help me…

 

 

 

 

2017 a story not yet written.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

We will get through it all, journey be damned.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

Jacy Update; One year later.

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

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

Fast forward one year.

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

Over the last year;

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

I can’t…

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

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

And that’s where this posting truly began.

Betty, why haven’t you been writing?

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

What was my answer?

Because I can’t…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Could I be like her?

I can’t………………………..

 

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

Ok, I’m done. I can’t write anymore….

 

 

 

 

Fear

Let’s talk about fear.

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

Traumatic events?

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

A change in behavior?

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

Induced by perceived danger or threat?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The ambulance came.

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

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

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

Where’s mom?

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

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

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

I hate fear.

August 13, 2016

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

More to come….

*Photopheresis

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

 

 

365 days

One year-365 days

The day before yesterday I awoke to my phone buzzing incessantly on my leg. I had traveled back to the firehouse for an emergency recall as emergency units were fighting a stubborn structure fire and additional manpower was needed for daily operations. After changing into my uniform, checking the operations board, determining who went where and why. A moment came where I dropped into a chair to catch a minute while enjoying the air-conditioning. It is the last thing I remember. That is until my phone started buzzing upon my leg.

Answering it, my wife started talking and I quickly realized I had no idea what she was saying. Not only did I have no idea what she was saying but I didn’t know where I was, who I was, or why I was sitting in a chair inside the firehouse. I panicked and thought shit something is wrong, why is she calling? She is at the hospital what has happened? Is it bad news? Is she ok and once again, HOW THE HELL DID I END UP AT WORK!!! Had I been there for a couple a days? Was this my shift? CRAP!!! I was lost..

The entire time my inner self is freaking the hell out, my wife is simply asking me when I am coming home for dinner? When I didn’t answer she would simply ask me again.

This morning when I awoke to head off to work, I awoke alone. Seeing no one there, I panicked for a second, took a breath, cleared my eyes then remembered as I have reminded myself on multiple occasions she wasn’t in the hospital. Odds are she is probably downstairs in her recliner after another long, horrible, sleepless night filled with coughing and pain. Instead watching Netflix with her headset on, and most likely snuggled up in a blanket trying her best to let me sleep.

A year ago Jacy received a bone marrow transplant. Today, according to BMT lore is her new birthday. A new birthday is given to every transplant patient upon receiving their transplant. This transplant saved her life. We are, and will be forever grateful for such a generous, selfless gift given without hesitation by a person we have never met. Modern medicine is amazing and I find myself in awe at what these treatments have afforded our family.

But it has not come without a cost.

I wake up disoriented and confused all the time! Exhaustion is a standard of living for me. I can’t fall asleep until after midnight. I fill my time doing laundry, cleaning house or simply watching television while she lays beside me. But even then I am watching carefully, listening to her breathe, judging her every movement. I do my best by allowing her the freedom to make decisions on her own in regards to her day, energy exertion and tasks she wishes to complete on her own. Never overstepping my bounds but asserting myself when I think she may have done too much or is planning to take on more than she can handle. Of course who am I to say what she can, or can’t handle? This is Jacy after all and she is going to tell me what she can or cannot do. Then when things don’t go as planned I just smile a sly smile and without saying; “I told you so”, help her get to where she needs to be. Most of my days are spent working outside for a while, then coming inside to make sure she is surviving and comfortable; certainly being inside also has to do with the current heat spell we are experiencing; trying my best to get the hard stuff done before it becomes too hot. In the morning I generally awaken at first light, toss and turn, trying to sleep just a little longer which may or may not get me to 0630. Then its coffee with the wife and my day begins.

It is as though w have Bone Marrow Transplant PTSD. I panic at anything in regards to her health, position, status, whereabouts, etc.. It is hard to love someone with all your heart, be their caregiver, take care of children, work, run a household and ranch all while trying to remember it is all going to be ok and you should probably take a moment or two for yourself.

The phone calls, updates, a year of hearing it’s all going to be fine then 5 days later you are signing DNR paperwork. The next weeks prognosis is good, but a few days later she is back in ICU. She is going to live, she is going to die. She is a miracle from GOD, she praying to GOD. She is kissing her children, she is praying for one more day with them. Doctors patting you on the back and smiling. Doctors patting you on the back while they sit you down to explain some very serious complications. The amazing amount of time you have, alone in your car, traveling 2-3 hours one way, hoping to spend more than a couple hours with her awake, knowing it is not her fault as heavy medication kept her from any form of alertness.

For a year I have watched the very same medications saving her life wither her body away to nothing. Taking away muscle and tone she worked so hard for so long to achieve. Leaving skin and bone in its aftermath, tearing away at her self-esteem. I have watched as hair has fallen off, skin has flaked away leaving lesions, blotching and discoloration covering her body. I have held her as impaired vision causes her pain, balance issues and nausea.

She cries a little each time we go back to Stanford, afraid some nurse or doctor will admit her. She lives in constant fear that if she does get sick she is doomed. She has mini panic attacks when calling her doctor or making an appointment for the same reasons. The slightest sniffle or cough leads to worry as a fever or discolored sputum brings doubt as to her overall health.

A year has gone by and our children are no longer the same. Learning about life and hardship, struggle, pain, sickness and survival. They will never look at a hospital or doctor’s office the same way again. Our youngest feels that if you go to a hospital the odds of coming home right away are very slim. They no longer know the mother who rode horses, or played sports, gardened and ran the perimeter of our property. No a year has gone and with it all expectations of normalcy.

But I am not writing this to be a downer, because although it has been an extremely difficult year and continues to bring struggles to our family, it has also been of year of immense growth.

365 days of love, caring and a town that never quit supporting our family. Never did I have to worry about whether my children would have a meal, or a place to go hang out, friends to play with, or a parent to help them. My oldest learned what it meant to be a BIG brother. Not just their brother, but one who cares for them, keeps them safe and ensures they stick to their schedule. We are pretty sure they also ruined him for ever having children.

Those children who can’t play soccer, go camping or ride horses and bicycles with their mom anymore have instead learned the importance in taking care of another human being. They have also through helpful guidance from myself and their older brother (as mentioned above) learned how to take care of themselves. Has it been perfect? NO! Have they all made mistakes, some larger than others? YES! Have I screwed up numerous times trying my best to parent from afar while at Stanford? HELL YES! But after this bout of family struggle in their lives I have no doubt our children will grow into fine adults who will undoubtedly help others along the way. Something (compassion) a parent wishes for from the time their children are born. Do our children want things to be the way they were before? YEP, but they also know we cannot go backwards and though it has been challenging they are ready for whatever lays ahead happy with the knowledge mom survived and mom is home.

 

Those medications her and I despise are keeping her alive and with each day comes another opportunity to interact with not only her family, her children, but her friends as well. She still feels as though there is work here on this planet for her to do and although each day taking 23 medications three times a day is a struggle. It is a struggle worth the price. I remember her saying one time that if GOD would grant her the ability to survive she would be content just watching her children grow from the comfort of her easy chair. We all know that isn’t enough for our Jacy and it really doesn’t matter what those medications have done to her outer appearance. The inside is still the magnanimous, charismatic, hilarious, moody, determined, intelligent, caring, loving, the woman we all know. That my friends is all that matters. A teacher once asked me; what will you do when your looks are gone? I can say without a doubt that if we have the love of family, friends and most of all ourselves. Then looks never really mattered anyways did they?

As far as constantly being exhausted, worrying about everything from my wife, to our ranch, long term finances, our children’s welfare, work and beyond? It has been a reality check, and a very long exhausting two years. From first being diagnosed with Leukemia to her having the Bone Marrow Transplant. I am tired, so very tired, I am overweight and I don’t feel all that great, my inner confidence is waning and some days I feel as though I am drowning. But I also know this is exactly where I am supposed to be. I married an incredible woman, God gave me a second chance at life by introducing us. It is within our nature as human beings to complain and as much as I despise complaining I have done it a time or two, or three, ok maybe half a dozen, yet I wouldn’t trade anything. From the moment we met we both knew we were meant to be together. We both heard and felt a higher power formulating a plan while drawing us together. When we married, she began working to make me a better person, not because she had to, but because you just naturally become one once you are around her. Trust me, I didn’t always like it, we sometimes fought over it as I raged against change. But without her, I am not sure I would be who I am today and for that I am thankful and she deserves all the love and devotion I have to give. So a little exhaustion is fine, some residual hospital PTSD is ok and at some point I am sure I will stop feeling exhausted or falling asleep the moment my body quits moving.

But in the end, as tired as I am, through all the hell our family has been through, thanks to God, great friends and family along with Jacy’s incredible will power, she is still here on her new birthday, and for that I will be forever grateful.

kids