Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Update... and some blubber

I know many of you are wanting an update on Chris. Sorry to not have emailed you all personally, and while I know Chris doesn't want our blog here to become a Cancer Blog, I'll just put a little update on here anyway and try to remember to post about others things too. This is our life and cancer is now a part of it, but we also have the rest of life to live and document. I hope I can maintain a good balance for everyone and myself.

He had a doctors appointment yesterday and finally met with an Oncologist here! Based on Chris' concerns and symptoms, the Dr. is guessing that Chris is at a stage 3, potentially stage 4 depending on if its spread to his bone marrow. Yikes! Not exactly what I was hoping for but I knew it was in the realm of possibilities. We'll know for sure what stage after the full body CT scan (scheduled for tomorrow) and the results of the bone marrow biopsy they did yesterday after meeting the doctor.

His treatment plan so far consists of meeting with doctors to discuss and do lab work on Fridays, then a round of Chemotherapy the following Monday and repeat that every 2 weeks for about 6- 8 months. The side effects of the 4 drugs they're planning on using are disconcerting and I think we're just barely getting an idea of how awful this is going to be. I guess we're slowly being eased into it as this past week Chris has had cold that has just knocked him out. He's constantly tired and coughing so bad he can't sleep. Today was a little better than yesterday so hopefully he's getting over it and can be fully healthy before his first round of Chemotherapy tentatively scheduled for next, next Monday.

So.... how are we all holding up? Chris is in remarkably good spirits. He's really responsible about keeping track of all of his appointments and other random tasks to do since we moved to another country like insurance, bank stuff, registration stuff etc. The boys have taken it all in stride and pray for him but other than that seem completely normal and unfazed. Gwen is totally oblivious (obviously) but really LOVES her new house and walks around like she owns the place. I... I have tough periods mixed with I'm-doing-fine periods. I miss my normal Chris who wants to cuddle and kiss me. I'm having to change my perspective of what kind of normal help I can expect from him and also try to stay positive and feel/show sympathy for him. And the actual treatment hasn't even started. I'm a bit overwhelmed, but at least am blessed with a numbness about it all. I still haven't felt any real sense of dread or despair. Although, it just feels like I can't get a break. I start to feel a bit settled and good about life and then something else comes up.

Yesterday, I did a really dumb thing and left my purse on the LRT (the public transit monorail system here). I was distracted with the getting the kids all off and safe since I was by myself.
So I had all the kids and the stroller and was locked out of our house, without any money or a phone for 5 hours, over lunch and nap time. They still haven't found my purse with my wallet, keys, map, planner, etc.

The day before we realized as we were trying to get a new cell phone plan straightened out, BOTH our drivers licenses were expired! We can't renew them because we don't live in CA anymore and we didn't think we qualified for an Alberta license since we're classified as temporary residents. Luckily it turns out we can, and it took us all day just to figure that out and get temporary licenses (although mine, of course, is now lost or stolen). That in turn, means we can no longer keep our car registered in the U.S. and now need to pass tests here to register it, which also means we need to first get insurance here....and on and on and on it goes.

My dad feels really strongly that this is all happening for a reason, specifically the whole finding out about cancer + moving to Canada thing. I'm grateful for his perception and have relied heavily on it since I still just mainly feel numb. Thanks for all your prayers and emails and love. I know I sound pretty pathetic but I also know that somehow we'll make it. God will protect my family and that feeling is a blessing I should try harder to remember.

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Man, when I started writing this post I had no idea I was going to be so blubbery again. Sorry for the length and ..uh..blubbery-ness (whatever that means).

Sunday, August 28, 2011

New House

So, we moved into our new place this week! Its a house. And it feels like triple the size of our last place. Although, at 650sq ft, that's not too hard to do.

The pros:
  • The basement is finished and it has a HUGE carpeted main room that is only devoted to playing. All of our toys are down there and the boys love it. There is even an extra bedroom (sewing room or... GUEST ROOM!? who's coming?) and a bathroom down there!
  • It has 3 bedrooms and 2 toilets all on the main level! (there is no upstairs)
  • There's even a little pantry next to the kitchen.
  • Wood burning fireplace -- which makes me feel good about emergency preparedness.
  • Small backyard with a big garden space and a DOUBLE car garage!
  • A brand new dishwasher and washer and dryer.
  • Its in a great (safe) established neighborhood with 3 excellently rated elementary schools within walking distance.
It seems that most people live in townhouses or other old/small homes and just thinking about the two homes we've been in already, we'd rather live in our house, so we feel pretty lucky. I bet you want some pictures! The boys had the camera out while we were moving in, so while we have pictures, they're not all that informative... except for one fact: CHARLIE IS THE DARLING-EST BOY EVER! See what I mean?

Lest anyone think my life is perfect, I feel the need to have balance in all things.

The cons:
  • Its pretty old. It was built in '76 and probably has the same wallpaper/toilets/sinks/curtains/carpet/closet doors. (at least the fridge and stove and heater are only a few years old)
  • The garage is detached, so we've still got to walk outside to get there.
  • Its laminate "hardwood floor" upstairs and the landlords are pretty nervous that the boys will destroy it so I have to be super vigilant about what toys are upstairs and how the boys play on it.
  • There actually aren't any kids in the neighborhood... VERY different from our last love, EV.
  • The kitchen, while there is more counter space, the cupboards are really small so our pots and pans don't fit and its crowded with more than 1 person in it. Also, there is no disposal (called a garborator here). I didn't think this would be a big deal but it actually is pretty hard for me right now. I probably just have to get used to it.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Another Challenge

The day before we left UT for Canada, I got a phone call from Chris' doctor about the results of the biopsy/surgery they did last week. Turns out, Chris has cancer. Specifically Hodgkin Lymphoma, nodular sclerosis. To say the least, we feel crushed. I feel about 50 lbs heavier (I think at least a tenth of that is quite literal thanks to all the vacation food etc).

Its been rough, but we're thankfully moving beyond our first impressions: numb shock and wary sadness. I felt the latter only lightly because I knew that's what we're supposed to feel. Actual sadness has come little by little as it slowly starts to affect our lives.

I actually don't feel like rehashing all my emotions out now, but I'll back post a blurb I wrote but didn't post the day of the surgery since I couldn't find my journal in whatever box it got placed.

Currently, we're in Edmonton! We got in last night and already we've viewed 2 places to live (1 of which will hopefully work out) gotten a Social Insurance Number for Chris and his University of Alberta ID, and a Canadian Bank account. We've just got to settle out a place to live so we can get an address so we can apply for insurance so we can get a family doctor so we can get a referral for an Oncologist so Chris can be seen and obtain an order for a whole body CT scan so we can find out what stage his cancer is in so we can map out a chemo therapy treatment plan so we can beat this. Let me repeat, SO WE CAN BEAT THIS. Hear that Mr. Golf-Ball-Sized-Lump in Chris' neck? We're going to win, so you may as well stop trying to wreck our lives.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Still here

Its been a while. Its been crazy.Its been busy. Its been stressful, tear-filled, unknown. Its been waiting and praying. Its been incredible and full of love from family and friends. Its been LIFE. That includes packing up our house, driving to Utah for my and Chris' first trip away and for a family reunion camping trip, flying back to CA to load up our moving truck, clean our house, turn in our keys, and for Chris to have surgery and then driving back to Utah to spend a bit more time with family before making the trek north to Canada on Tuesday.

I just crave normalcy. I crave feeling at home. It'll come. Hopefully in a few weeks.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

too many tears

My head hurts. I've been crying on and off for a good few hours and I think I might explode. Chris had surgery today to remove a portion of an inflamed lymph node. After the surgery the doctor expressed concern that this doesn't look normal based on its large size and the number (a lot) of nodes involved, although the range of possibilities for diagnosis still extends to being completely benign.

I don't really feel like talking because I burst into tears the moment I see a kind face or think about calling family (and they all so deserve personal/detailed updates but I just can't talk anymore about it. I don't want to cry anymore. However, I also feel like I can't process things well enough to move on mentally until composing my thoughts into words. And "move on" I need to do in quite the literal sense.

I've felt numb all day. I knew the surgery today was a bigger deal than I was preparing for, yet I didn't know how else to act. I guess I was thinking today would seem more like a doctors visit, like the fine needle aspiration biopsy was two weeks ago. Wrong, wrong, wrong. We had plans to order Indian Food and eat it with friends and celebrate one of our friend's birthday upon arriving home. In reality, the whole experience took about 3 hours longer than we thought and involved prescriptions and pharmacies and insurance issues and the like.

The biggest wild card was how Chris was going to react and recover and it turns out he's REALLY exhausted and sore and uncomfortable and emotional. I think in terms of the strictly medical side of recovery he's doing well, but is also pretty out of it. I want to comfort him and help him and focus on him which is turning out to be easier felt than done because I feel like my hands are tied. We're moving tomorrow and I've still got Gwen to attend to. I couldn't even find a cup to pour juice into so he could have something to drink down his pain meds with. I found a plastic bowl in a box that was just folded down, not taped, and handed that to him with an apologetic grimace that just got bigger as I watched him try to sip from it laying down, resulting in a wet shirt and pillow.

He can't lift or carry anything thats over 10 lbs for a few days and shouldn't drive for at least a day or two. The moving trailer is being delivered tomorrow and we have 1 day to load it and get it picked up so we (I guess, mostly I) can drive back to Utah on Friday to be with our boys again and help my sister host a bridal shower for my little sister getting married in a few weeks.

I just want to tuck Chris in bed with his favorite pillows and pajamas and make him some chicken noodle soup, popcorn and apples. Yet we have no food in the house except for the instant macaroni meals/soups and crackers I found at the pharmacy earlier today. I just want to eat some dinner myself and then sleep off this migraine I feel coming on now that Gwen is down for the night and Chris is asleep. Yet I need to sort out my feelings, read the scriptures and a small part of me still feels the need to finish packing.

Alright, this is helping, I think. But enough with the hardships and depressing thoughts. I think I need to find the Lord's hand in all this in order to actually feel the comfort and support I've been craving.

First thought - what a blessing my friends here have been! Instead of wondering why I'm feeling support from friends but not the Lord, I need to realize my Heavenly Father put those friends into my life in the first place.

Second thought - our families have been praying for us and thinking about us! Instead of stressing over keeping them all updated without wanting to talk, I need to thank the Lord for their concern and love.

Third - I need to seek comfort and love from Christ through prayer and reading the scriptures. Its too bad we've been on vacation/camping/family reunions this past while since it makes it so hard to maintain regular scripture study, but still I believe had I kept it up, I would have felt more peace today.

Fourth - Todd and Jared gave a nice blessing to Chris last night before we flew out this AM and he was impressed with how confident and good he felt about Chris' overcoming this.

Ok. Now, enough babbling, I need to get out the scriptures and welcome their peaceful spirit into my empty, now dry, self.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Get Away

For our 7th anniversary this year, Chris and I had our first get away trip. We drove to UT, left our kids with Grandma and Grandpa Dixie and drove down to Southern Utah. We stayed at a fun Bed and Breakfast, Amid Summers Night, for 2 nights an a Cedar City hotel for the third night. We had planned to stay a bit longer, but when we found out about Chris' biopsy we decided to cut back a bit, to have less time away from the kids.

We saw 4 plays at the Utah Shakespearean Festival: A Mid Summer's Night Dream, Noises Off! A Glass Menagerie and Richard III. So fun to be there, and so fun to have the Bard Card and buy lots of treats. We went to a session in the St. George temple, did a small amount of shopping at the outlet stores there, ate at yummy restaurants and hiked up in Cedar Breaks.

One day we drove out to Zion's National Park. I convinced Chris to do Angel's Landing with me. I wanted to do something we wouldn't have been able to do if we'd had kids with us. It was AWESOME! And not as hard as I thought it would be, although it was actually a bit scarrier than that I thought it would be. We hiked it FAST, like an hour total, or something. Chris got to the part where you needed to hold onto chains because the drop off on either side was SO FAR and the rocks you were standing on were SO NARROW. He hiked through it for a quarter of a mile or so, and decided he'd experienced enough and found a nice little shadey tree/ledge to wait on while I went to the top, yay, the very tip of the outcropping.

I was more scared hiking by myself without Chris in so perilous a spot, but I saw other hikers for most of the time and they were all kind and noticed I didn't carry any water with me (I left them with Chris so I could move faster) and shared a sip or two with me. Anyway. It was a really fun thing and I'm grateful Chris let me do it and even did it with me!

We ate a picnic lunch by a river before heading back to check into our hotel and see one more play. I was excited about the pool/hottub at the hotel and was quite distraught when a glass bottle slipped out of the bag I was holding, dropped on the doorstep of our hotel room and shattered, slicing Chris in the leg. He was brave enough to let me do a novice tape job and after a short rest, sat by the edge of the pool dipping a leg in so I could still take a dip myself.

We did well with eating treats but not over doing it and making ourselves sick and we so enjoyed some time away alone together. Although I was surprised at how no kids doesn't equal marital bliss. Not that we had an awful time, it was really great, but it wasn't an only-Zen-like-happy feelings-all-the-time kind if romantic get-a-way like I foolishly dreamed up.

Like everything, our first vacation without children was a fun and good learning experience. Something we need to do more often and we're both really grateful for Dixie and James for watching our kids and letting us take a break.