It was just like any other Tuesday. I had slept in a bit and was getting ready to head to George Washington University later that afternoon for class. The phone rang and I answered - little did I know it would change everything from that point forward. Dr. Broome was on the other line and I immediately heard in the tone of her voice that something was up. She usually didn't call me in the middle of the day like this and she just sounded serious. She told me to sit down and to prepare myself for what she was about to say. Dr. Broome was more than just a physician to us; she had become a friend and a trusted partner on this cancer journey so I felt the pain in her voice as she said, "It's back". We were both silent for what seemed like an eternity until I started crying and decided not to hold it back. In her loving and almost motherly way, she explained how sorry she was and how important it was to act quickly on this and that we should start with aggressive chemo the following week. After assuring her that I was going to be okay, we hung up and I sat on the floor for 10 or 15 minutes (but it could have been an hour for all I knew) in a state of shock. I wasn't crying anymore but I just felt like I was living somebody else's life. This could not be happening.....again. I snapped out of it and knew I needed Hanna with me. I needed to cry with her, talk this out, and just hold her. I picked up the phone and called her at work, something I had never done before.
"Hello?" What I heard on the other line was a voice I'll never forget, an unintelligible voice saying words like leukemia, relapse, chemo, transplant, right away through sniffles and tears. Dan asked me to come home right away. I dismissed my 6th grade social skills lunch group and carefully explained "speech class is over early today" - a particularly difficult concept for my group of students with autism who thrive on routine (a regular, 30 minute session) and who have significant difficulty recognizing social cues (aka your speech teacher hyperventilating). I pulled it together and my SLP friend, Kelly, escorted the students from our therapy session, allowing me a moment of privacy. The next few minutes were a blur of emails to my principal and frantic packing of my things while I slowly processed what I had heard. I raced to my car and immediately called my family, one by one. Everyone's response was the same, a bit of silence, a few "I'm sorry"s, some tears, a lot of "oh no"s and always "I love you". I can't remember parking and I don't know how I made it up the 4 flights of stairs to our apartment so quickly, but I'll never forget the look on Dan's face when I walked in the door. We immediately broke down into a terribly painful fit of tears. We held each other and soaked our shirts saying "it's okay" over and over, when we really knew that was a lie. None of this was okay.
It is hard to imagine these events happened one year ago. So much has happened since then but those moments may as well have been yesterday. The year that followed has been scattered with high peaks and deep valleys but we scaled them all holding hands, trusting in God, believing in our medical teams (we had many!), and finding joy in every day, even when it seemed impossible. We finished that night picking each other up, putting our faith and trust in the future, and going out for Mexican dinner. It might seem like an odd choice of activities but it just felt right at the time. It was our first jab at stupid cancer and its attempt to ruin our days and get in the way of our lives and precious time together. I spent last year's Holy Week in the hospital getting chemo and living some small sliver of the suffering of Christ. This year we are still jumping through medical hoops and living every day with the looming fear of cancer returning, but we are focusing on thanksgiving for being home to celebrate another Easter, for surviving another year, for our doctors, friends, and family, for our marriage which has only been strengthened, and for our faith, which is deeper and fuller and gives us the joy to live every second of every day to its fullest.
Happy Easter and always believe that ALL Will be Well
"We are shining stars, we are invincible, we are who we are. On our darkest day, when we're miles away, sun will come, we will find our way home"
"Life is a storm ...You will bask in the sunlight one moment, be shattered on the rocks the next. What makes you a man is what you do when that storm comes."
Celebrating our 2nd wedding anniversary a little early
in Annapolis, MD before Dan started chemo last year.
Looking forward to a cancer-free 3rd anniversary in 2 weeks!