From Celebration to Despair and Partway Back

This is DH wearing his double thick hat on a camping trip in February.

This past week has been the strangest surreal hell. I wanted to finish up my 200 blog entries contest without getting all tangled up in what has happened, so that the pleasure of having reached that milestone wouldn't be lost, as well as so that the prize winners could revel in their moments of glory. 8^) And now I'm past that and able to type words I don't much like.

DH went off to the doctor Monday afternoon after his Friday appointment of last week was postponed "because the pathologist is still looking at your results." Not a good sign. But DH being calm and taking the "why worry when I don't know what to worry over" route, I also didn't worry. We watched movies and hung out last weekend, did the usual weekend chores etc.

So Monday, I get a call from DH at the doctor's asking me to drive over so that I can drive him home, because if I don't they won't be able to give him a painkiller for a little procedure they are about to do.

Aside: While my husband is well trained in first aid and is the manliest of men, when it comes to his own blood, pain, or body violated by needles, he becomes just like I remember the girls when they had to have something done to them at the doctor's . . . at about age 3. Only he's worse. I think it's probably an identified phobia, but he goes into total panic mode, pale, shaking, anxiety attack, yelling as loud as ever he's yelled. Apparently doctors' offices have seen worse because no one has ever acted that surprised when he flipped out this way.

So I drove over there (actually DD#3 dropped me off on her way to work--I knew I'd have his car to drive us home in) and I knew something unpleasant was up. I think I was in shock though because I didn't even explain why she was doing this when DD#3 drove me, and I really didn't register until I was walking in that I had been told to find him not in his GP's office but in . . . oncology.

More surrealism followed, with a kind young woman at the front desk all but busting out crying when I introduced myself, but in the next few minutes I was taken to him, after said procedure (a bone marrow biopsy*), where I met someone who I already think must be a great doctor, his new oncologist. For DH has Stage III lymphoma, non-Hodgkin type. In other words, he's been drafted unwillingly into the "NHL."

I was a bit surprised that he wasn't falling apart yet at this diagnosis, and as the doctor kindly and gently explained the basics to me, I expected any minute for DH to freak out. We made plans for all the nexts that must come his way so soon, CT scans with barium, chemo treatments, etc., and then drove home in a fog. It was only when we got home that DH sat down, held his arms out to me, and pulled me onto his lap so we could both have a big cry. Fear, terror really, bewilderment (he's the picture of health and health conscious, one might almost say, to a fault), disbelief (when I would wake up in the night for the first few nights, my first thought was always, "Damn, it's STILL TRUE"), and quickly emotional exhaustion.

Since that dark first 24 hours, when he was sure he was a dead man and I was listening to him saying things that I didn't want to hear (such as, "You are really all fine. You'll be OK. Without me, things will just go on as they have"), he and I have each separately come much farther along on this path.

First, he had been slated to go to a conference in the UK and follow that with several days of meetings in Germany and Belgium. Though it was a hugely weird decision to have to make, he decided to go ahead and go. And I am glad he did because he has been able to both be with his colleagues and do his professional thing and to confide in a few close contacts with whom I too have become acquainted, and to benefit by their own responses and wisdom.

The first day after his diagnosis, while he was readying himself for a trip while taking uncounted hug breaks and telephone breaks all day, I just put one foot in front of the other. Then he left for London and I took another day off, which no one begrudged me (having heard our news), and got my feet on the ground again. I read a bazillion things about lymphoma and talked with daughters, family members, friends, and colleagues of my own, and by the end of the day I knew I could get back on the horse and ride.

With every email and phone call DH sends, I can see him sizing this opponent up and gathering his energies. NHL of his type is considered extremely responsive to treatment and actually has several different treatments that can be brought to bear. His quality of life after chemo can be perfectly good, though I don't want to minimize what chemo may well be like for him. He's starting to believe all this and not to be overcome by the helpless feeling of not knowing exactly what his future holds. Until Monday, he was under the . . . ahem . . . illusion that he had total control of his life, but I believe that he will not only be able to overcome the fear of the unknown but will have perhaps a clearer picture of the degree of control any of us really has (or must have) of our futures.

The DDs are all starting to cope well too, and have seemed instinctively capable of finding good support from those in their worlds prepared to give it. DD#3, the only one at home, has made me her little project. She checks in with me all the time to see how I'm feeling and calls me at school. She gave me a sweet card to tell me she loves me too. Aww!

I half jokingly asked DH if he would mind if I started a blog so I could track his progress for friends and family . . . but his answer was a good one. There is no reason everyone has to go along on this roller coaster ride with us. So I will of course bring it up at times, but I hope to be able to return to my regularly scheduled knitting blog (not to mention knitting itself!) the majority of the time. Any and all thoughts, good wishes, prayers, burnt offerings, incantations, whatever, that you have to offer, are gratefully accepted and much appreciated.


*The results of the bone marrow biopsy are already back and NEGATIVE for cancer--therefore, as DH says, his bone marrow is not a cancer-making factory. Whew!