I had the awesome opportunity to take a road trip with Lee and the kids last weekend. I had been in Little Rock for the previous week doing my pre-transplant/chemo tests to make sure I was healthy enough to go through a transplant again. Usually, my test week isn’t too bad. Unfortunately, it started off on the wrong foot and ended on what could have been a disastrous foot. But, God has a sense of humor and I suppose I learned that bad situations, sometimes, are good ones in disguise.
My first test last week was a MUGA scan. MUGA stands for multigated acquisition scan. They mix my blood with a little radioactive material, inject it back into me and take pictures of my heart. No biggie, but I feel like I should be glowing. There is a waiting period of about 15 minutes between mixing and re-injecting. Lucky me, I got to wait that whole 15 minutes with Debbie Downer.
I always try to start a conversation with whoever is in the waiting room with me. People are usually pretty interesting, helpful and positive. Prior to this lady, I’d only come in contact with one other truly negative person. Needless to say, that lady had blown my mind with her offhand comment about her ex-husband and her previous best friend…story for another day. Anyway, this lady told me that she and her husband (her husband is the myeloma patient) started their journey about 14 years ago. She said that they became close with about 12 or 13 other couples during their treatment phase. At this point I’m thinking, “Oh, that’s so nice! How blessed they are to have that many couples they consider friends going through the same process.” Then she says matter of factly, “They’re all dead.” I so wanted out of that conversation right then. She went on and on about how none of them died from myeloma, all died of infection like central line infection, pneumonia, blood infections, etc, etc, blah, blah. She mentioned that they never get to have Christmas on Christmas because one of the grandkids is always sick, they don’t take vacations because risk of infection in an airplane is so high, they pretty much are recluses in their home during the fall and winter, negative, negative, negative. What a waste. How depressing. Tell me, what exactly is the point of surviving this stupid cancer only to die of infection? That was the first bad situation of my week.
I met a guy in the main waiting room right after the previous lady, and his story was just as depressing. He was out of remission, I think he said 8 years in. He felt the need to tell me how healthy he used to be, and he never got that health back. He was in his 30s when he was diagnosed. Yippee. Second bad situation.
Towards the end of the week mom and I learned that one of the patients we considered a friend passed away. The last time I saw her, nothing about her said she was going to leave so soon. Mrs. Washington was a radiant woman. She had very dark skin and wore either all white or all jewel tones. She was so so beautiful. She always asked me how I was doing, and never appeared to have a bad day. Mr. Washington is a minister and it seemed that their last week there, they were always in the ‘pod’ right across from mine. We had several conversations about God, staying strong, persevering, etc. Her cancer started as multiple myeloma, but as it sometimes does, she ended with leukemia. Looking back, Mrs. Washington had the slowed down movements of someone very weak. You notice that when someone has gone through a tough treatment. It’s almost like watching someone move their limbs through water. We knew her treatments had stopped working. What we didn’t know, and didn’t expect, was that her body would stop working only 2 weeks after her last failed chemo. 2 weeks.
Since school starts next week, Dr. Barlogie let me go home so I could be here for the kids. They picked me up in Little Rock and we drove to Murfreesboro for a weekend road trip. There is literally nothing in that part of Arkansas except for Crater of Diamonds National Park, a tiny miniature golf and a swimming hole. Crater of Diamonds is the only open to the public, keep what you dig up diamond mind in the US. My kids LOVE rocks and digging in the dirt, swimming and golf, so we thought it would be the perfect distraction. What we didn’t plan for was flash flooding, loss of power in our motel and 70 degree cold rain. These conditions could have been miserable. They should have been miserable. But we had a BLAST!
The first night we spent the evening making shadow puppets on the wall and reading by flashlight, all while a crazy storm blew through. It rained so hard that there were puddles in the park the next day that went up to an adults mid-thigh. Of course the kids ‘accidentally’ stepped in each one of these. They made mud pies, found their special rocks and explored the muddy park in t-shirts and no shoes. We figured we should give it a rest the first day when their lips started turning blue! We went back to our motel around 11a.m., which by that time had power, ordered a pizza and ate it in bed while the 5th or 6th inch of rain fell that day. Towards the evening, we put on more grubby clothes, cut holes in big black trash sacks and used as ponchos, and went out diamond digging again. Before we went home the next day, we went out again and didn’t find a thing. Were we irritated that our weekend road trip was ruined? No way. We were COVERED in mud, pruny from being wet all weekend, stinky because none of us had packed enough clean clothes, and should have been disappointed because all of our other plans had been rained out.
Plans get rained out all the time, though. I suppose it’s all about what you make of your time. We could have been so negative. We could have kept the kids out of the waist high puddles. I could have stayed inside because I was worried about my risk of infection. Maybe I should have, but I’d rather my kids remember me as the soaking wet, bald-headed, diamond digging, as full of grace as Mrs. Washington mom than the afraid, miserable mom that I could be. That doesn’t mean that I don’t have bad days. I have some very, very bad days. But I will do my best to control what I can. I refuse to let this stupid cancer hijack more than it already has.
‘For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.’ Colossians 1:16-17