I know, I know…..I can hardly believe I am saying it myself and I am most certain that my husband just gasped as he read this title, as he admittedly suffers form triskaidekaphobia (the fear of the number 13). When the clock struck midnight, announcing the start of the new year, my husband was filled with dread, as he was most certain that 2013 would be a terrible year. I thought he was crazy…but after these past 12 months, I’m thinking that perhaps there is something to his paranoia.
It started with a few household mechanical breakdowns–each getting progressively more expensive. Not a big deal–not enough to make me a believer. However, by summer our year continued to spiral downward as we lost my mother-in-law quite unexpectedly, DH’s uncle, and watched as one of our beloved friends lost his dad–all within a 7 week period. It was during this time that we were dealing with our greatest challenges yet, as individuals and as parents, as we were faced with our own health crisis.
It started in May when DH returned home from a business trip and started complaining about a sore throat. No big deal, I thought. I figured he just caught something while he was away. His throat continued to feel “thick” for two more weeks before I began to get concerned. He said he thought his neck felt swollen. Being an RN I figured I’d poke around, see if he maybe needed to go get checked out. Holy cow! I was so not prepared for what I felt. His left lymph node was a bit larger in size than a golf ball. The other was relatively normal. Unfortunately, being a nurse sometimes works against me in situations like these, as I immediately jump the worst case scenario. I urged him to call his doctor first thing in the morning, which he did but his doctor was not working that day. He spent all day waiting for a call for an appointment from her back up–which he did not get. There was no way I was going to wait for Monday for answers, so I convinced him to go to urgent care–a place my family is usually forbidden to visit unless it is a life or death situation (you leave those places sicker than when you went in!). I sat anxiously awaiting his text updates: “waiting in room” ,”swabbing for strep”, “having X-ray”. Finally he saw the doctor, who said she had never encountered a lymph node that large and suspected that, pending results of the other tests, that it might be lymphoma. However, a few minutes later, his strep test came back positive –never thought I’d be that relieved for strep! The doctor prescribed him antibiotics but was still suspicious about his lymph node. She instructed him to call his doctor on Monday for a follow up and would send all the tests results and xrays to her. Meanwhile, if the node was enlarged due to strep, it should decrease in size over the weekend as a result of treatment.
Needless to say, it was a long weekend. I must have palpated that node a thousand times and drove DH crazy. By Monday, the node seemed smaller to me, so when he called his doctor that morning, he figured there was no harm in waiting till Wednesday for an appointment. Then, we got THE CALL.
The call was from the radiology department where he had his chest X-ray–his precautionary, cover-all-our-bases chest X-ray. I figured they were looking for payment. I couldn’t have been more wrong. They informed DH that the xray found a 5mm node on his lung. They advised him to see his doctor right away for follow up testing–thank you, have a nice day.
I can’t honestly say I saw that coming. The next couple of days were a blur of worry and feverishly searching the Internet for something, ANYTHING that would tell me he would be okay, but the Internet is really full of crap and bad news. There wasn’t anything remotely reassuring. As a matter of fact, it made me feel worse. Cancer, cancer, cancer–that’s all that Google could find. Even when found at a small size, the chances of survival were 80%. That meant I had a 20% chance of losing my husband–that was not good enough for me!
At his Wednesday appointment, his doctor was quite reassuring. She was certain that this was probably nothing, especially given his age, history, and non-smoker status, but she sent him for a CT just as a precaution. The news was WORSE! The CT showed the node was actually larger than the xray had indicated–8mm. I felt like I had been punched in the gut. What next? The industry standard, is, since he doesn’t have any risk factors, to wait and see and do another CT in 6-12 months. His doctor, who is really so good, offered to set up an appointment with a pulmonologist. After frantically contacting anyone I knew who would have a recommendation, we settled on one that was said to be the best, and made the first available appointment, which wasn’t for two weeks.
It was only about a week later that I was getting out of the shower after coaching DD8’s softball game that I noticed “IT”–“IT” being a lump in my armpit and yes I could actually see it. I wasn’t going to waste any time. I called my doctor at 8am that next morning and they were able to get me in within the hour. I wasn’t even going to tell DH, he had enough on his plate, but I figured the kids would spill the beans that I was gone with Baby Girl that morning. My doctor, too, was very reassuring. Thought it was just a lymph node and wanted to wait and see for two weeks, at which time we would do a mammogram. Okay, so I lost it at lymph node. Really lost it. How could this be happening? How could DH and I be facing such major issues–what if we both had cancer? How would we care for each other? Who would take care of our kids?
I’d like to say that in those two weeks I found inner peace or came up with a reassuring mantra–but I didn’t. Every single one of those days I struggled every minute to keep it together, for DH and for the kids. I tried so hard to be that rock he needed and keep our kids in the dark about what was going on. For two weeks I lived minute to minute, one foot in front of the other. There wasn’t anything profound that I discovered, nothing that I can share that make anything easier. I was scared as hell every single second–nothing profound or inspiring about that.
Like I said, I was, we were, living minute to minute, playing outside with the kids, sitting, trying to enjoy the summer evenings with a beer. We tried to maintain some sort of normalcy for the kids, despite how jazzed up we were on the inside. However, things started to change between DH and I. We were saying “I love you” daily, something that had been lost somewhere in our 16 years of marriage. We went out of our way to be kind and the petty arguing slipped away because quite honestly, it wasn’t worth the time we had. We lived life like each day was our last and did not spend a moment taking each other, or anyone else, for granted.
I spent a lot of time with the kids that summer doing what we called “life lessons”. Facing my own mortality, I worried who would be around to teach them stuff if I were sick–or not around at all. There was this sort of overwhelming panic that set in, I felt like I was running out of time. They needed to know how to change a diaper, do laundry, mail a letter–simple everyday things. We also spent time talking about what it means to be a lady and a man, how my “men” should treat a lady and how my “ladies” should expect to be treated by a man. Not the strangest dinner conversation we’ve ever had, but probably one of the more important ones.
DH’s appointment came and went. The pulmonologist stated that the node was too small for a biopsy and that there wasn’t anything to do but watch it. DH’s rescan and follow-up were scheduled for three months later, three days before his 42nd birthday. My two week recheck showed no change in the lump in my armpit and my doctor scheduled a mammogram for the next week. I spent that whole week googling the size, shape, and hardness of my lump which was a total waste of time. There wasn’t anything anyone could tell me. I knew there was only one way to find out for certain what that lump was and it wasn’t though the Internet. My Google searches about mammograms were almost worse, scaring me so much about the procedure itself that I almost did not go. I remember sitting in my parked car outside the the building and seriously considering NOT going in. My rational side won. I went in, alone, by my own choice. My sister, DH and BFF all offered to go with me, but I didn’t think they needed that kind of burden-especially DH. The last thing he needed was to sit in that waiting room, thinking about my fate-our fate. I waited for my name to be called and stood there, squish after squish and laid on the table during customary ultra sound. The news was good! The lump was (is) a normal lymph node. It was our first piece of good news all year. I cried as I got dressed and texted DH the news. Our relief was short lived as we headed “home” right after my appointment to make arrangements for my mother-in-law’s funeral.
I spent all summer in conflict, trying to savor every moment but wishing September and DH’s appointment would arrive quickly. Finally, the day arrived with the second best news we could’ve received from that appointment (the first, of course, being that the node had completely vanished). The node had not changed in three months. However, since it had not, a biopsy still could not be done to definitively rule out cancer and we would have to wait 18months for his next follow up. If all looks the same March 2015, he will be in the clear. Not great news, but better news.
I feel like I should enter a disclaimer here for those reading this who know us personally. DH and I are not the kind of people who air all our laundry via social media sites nor did we feel like we should burden those around us with worry over all that transpired. Talking about it and telling people made it more real, and we just we not ready for that. I hope you will understand.
The rest of this year moved forward with other unfortunate events, that individually would not be a big deal, but combined with the rest of our year, make our snowball of misfortune bigger. There are 3 days left in 2013, and I can tell you we are anxiously hold our breath until that clock strikes 12. As I am writing this, DH has our dishwasher pulled out–apparently it has a crack and is leaking water all over the kitchen floor…….
By now you are probably thinking “I thought this was supposed to be about how this was the best year”, so I will finally get to my point. This year, I have learned a lot about myself and others. The events that occurred, both of us facing cancer, losing DH’s mom, watching our good friend lose his dad…etc, made me realize how much I take for granted and how petty I had been. I had been living my life getting angry, and mostly at DH, over stupid things that didn’t even matter. I was wasting my time, my precious time, with him by being mad rather than loving him like I should, like he deserved. I took for granted that he would always be there, there would always be time. I realized there would come a day when that would not be the case. The idea of losing him was, and is still, such a crushing fear that makes it difficult to breathe.
I realized that my views on things, regardless of how “right” I think I am, isn’t always correct. That inability to see things from others’ point of view has cost me two of my best friends and everyday I feel that sadness deep in my gut. A lot of time has passed–maybe too much to ever get it back. I will keep trying, but I know there are some times in life where there just isn’t a second chance. A new day means a new opportunity to keep trying to make a change, set things right, to make the most of every moment you are given because you never know when what you have will be gone.
As for DH and I, well the fear of losing one another has strengthened our relationship. Every day we say “I Love You” and we make it a point to spend somewhat alone time together by going out to dinner a couple of times a month-just us and Baby Girl (that is the nice thing about having a teenager–he can watch his younger sibling for a couple of hours). I’m not going to lie and say we don’t bicker because we still do sometimes. What has changed is the harboring of anger about these stupid things for days or even weeks. We have learned the importance of appreciating each other and have been reminded that although we promised to love one another forever, we don’t have forever.
So to 2013 I’d like to say good riddance but in the midst of all that we have endured, I have become better, my relationships are better, and life, in this moment, is good. That is what has made 2013 the best year yet.
|Through our struggles we have emerged stronger|