Real Time – Part 2

By the time we got the phone call to tell us that my husband now had cancer in his lungs, I don’t think either of us were surprised.  While I had desperately tried to convince myself that this could still be some crazy infection, I think the four days spent waiting for the test results while I plied my husband with every healing tonic I could think of, gave us time to prepare for what they would tell us.  We were on the eve of leaving on a desperately needed two week vacation, and we had already decided that we would go anyway… the thought of launching straight back into the cancer treatment scene was too much for either of us.

The next morning we called Dr. E and asked if it was ok to wait a week or two to start treatment.  He said he thought it would be fine, he was leaving on a week vacation too… we would set up an appointment when we were both back and talk about starting chemo again.  We got in the car and began the 9 hour drive to our home town, where we would meet up with all our family members and our kids and tell them this horrible news in person.  The irony was that this was to be a big celebration visit… our home town friends who had cheered us along since his diagnosis over a year before had organized a big party.  We called and told them we wouldn’t make it to the party, not giving a full explanation.

I don’t know if it was the long car ride, or the unbelievable amount of stress my husband was feeling at the prospect of telling our children and his parents for the second time that he had cancer, but by the time we arrived at my parents house he was worse.  My sister was due to arrive with her family and our kids the following afternoon, so we decided to go and tell my husband’s parents the next morning and come back and tell the kids after they arrived, just to get it all over with.

We arrived at his parents and dropped the news on them and his sister.  Awful.   It was scary because my husband seemed to be getting worse by the day.  He couldn’t really talk without having a coughing fit, he was in pain, and he had no energy.  By the time we were heading back to my parents to meet up with our kids, I think he was starting to have an anxiety attack.  This was what had been plaguing him since we heard the news.  When the kids saw their dad they could clearly see he was not better.  I could see right away that my husband wasn’t able to get the words out.  I explained to them what was going on.  They reacted in somewhat similar ways to the first time… Our daughter after crying pretended everything was fine, staying close by her father. Our son on the other hand seemed distant and was awkward around him. I wasn’t much help to them since it was taking all my strength to hold myself together.  It was great that they had their grandparents and aunt and uncle there to provide support, answer their questions, as well as provide a much-needed distraction from the devastating reality of what was happening.  It was great that I had them there too because I was on the verge of falling apart.

The next day things turned from bad to worse.  When I went to check on my husband after having breakfast, I could tell he was struggling.  Mornings were worse for his breathing, and I could tell he was having a hard time trying to get it under control.  This time it was leading to panic.  That was when he told me he felt like he was dying…  Despite the shear terror I was now feeling at hearing those words, I immediately started talking in soothing tones and moved to start performing EFT* (Emotional Freedom Technique) tapping on my husband. After muttering “you are ok, you are going to be ok” dozens of times while going through the EFT circuit, he started to calm down and regain control.  I left the room, found my sister, and collapsed into a hysterical mess in her arms.

My sister got the kids out of the house and down to the beach while I tried to pull myself together.  I made arrangements for the kids with both sets of their grandparents for the next couple of weeks.  It was clear that I needed to get my husband home immediately before he got any worse.  It was shocking how quickly his condition had deteriorated in a matter of days.  After explaining to the kids, we packed up and left first thing the next morning, making phone calls from the road to set up appointments for as soon as possible that week.  Now it seemed chemo could not start soon enough…

Next up: Real Time – Part 3…

* EFT is something I came across a few years ago on the Internet.  Similar to acupressure, you tap a series of specific spots on your head, face, and upper body in a designated order.  I first tried it to help relieve my headaches, which it does amazingly.  I’ve also used it to great success with my kids, to relieve anxiety and calm them, or to take away a headache, etc.  It is just an easy technique you can learn in a few minutes and do anywhere. It is a great tool to have for stress and pain relief.  I don’t send myself any special messages or anything… just tell myself, or my kids (or in this case my husband) that “you are ok”, or “you will feel better” progressing to “ you are feeling better”. 


Real Time – Part 1

Sometimes life changes on a dime… Sometimes it does more than once.

It was my intention that this was to be a story told in retrospect, a story that would inspire others and give hope.  I had barely started.  I hadn’t even gotten to the part about the 4 months of chemo, a failed colon resection surgery, a month of daily radiation, a successful (take 2) colon resection, a liver resection surgery, and the ileostomy reversal surgery.  Not to mention all the scans, research, supplements, alternative therapies, etc….  I had a lot of good stories too… But I guess that can wait for another time, because after only a few months after being “cancer free”, we are now back in the fight.

So, I guess we will now continue this journey together, in real time… I still fully intend that this will be a story of hope and inspiration, a success story.  I’m just not sure yet how it will unfold.  Here’s what happened…

After three major surgeries in a span of 6 months (January-June this year), my husband was feeling good, buoyed by his achievement.  He had had a foot of colon removed, and 75% of his liver removed in the process.  Though he still didn’t have quite all his strength back after the last surgery, he felt good enough to go on a business trip in early July, and promised to take it easy.  If it had been anything else he probably wouldn’t have gone, but it was the company’s big annual conference and they were unveiling projects my husband had been instrumental in.  He also wanted to see people he hadn’t seen in over a year, and start celebrating beating cancer.  I wanted him to have that moment.

When he arrived home he was tired… normal I thought, given his condition and the trip.  Then he started having a little cough…. Just a little bug, something he must have picked up on the trip… nothing to worry about.  But the cough didn’t go away and neither did the fatigue, it got a bit worse.  Then he started having shoulder pain, and then pain in his side.  At this point my husband was feeling pretty crappy and had already begun to take days off work.  Shortly after that my husband Googled “cough and shoulder pain” and it came back LUNG CANCER.

How could that be possible? I reminded my husband of the number 1 rule – Don’t Google It!!!!  Besides he was cancer free, we hadn’t even had a party to celebrate yet, and it couldn’t possibly come back that fast… could it?  He called the oncologist the next day and they set up an appointment for a CT scan for later that week. We were only a couple of weeks away from a long, long, overdue vacation, and the kids were going to my sister’s the week before so that we could have some romantic time alone…

The CT scan showed spots scattered through both lungs (inconclusive), something possibly on his liver (inconclusive), and slightly enlarged lymph nodes (inconclusive), as well as a build up of fluid in the space behind his lungs (probably the cause of the shoulder pain).  He was sent to a lung specialist to have the fluid drained from behind his lungs, which would be sent for testing.  I reassured the kids that their father would be feeling better once the fluid was gone, and put them on a plane to my sister’s.  I was still trying to convince myself that this was some kind of weird infection.  By this point my husband was not feeling well enough to work, he was exhausted and weak.  Removal of a litre and a half of fluid from behind his lungs had not helped his cough or his pain.  We spent a not so romantic week waiting for the test results.  We decided that we would still go on vacation no matter what happened… Maybe he just needed a break, we knew we desperately wanted a change of scene for a while, we were still optimistic.  The evening before we were supposed to leave, the lung specialist called… it was cancer.  My husband’s cancer had metastasized to his lungs.

Part 2 coming soon!