We are 4 days out from the first infusion of chemotherapy drugs. Stacey is running a low-grade fever. Her body is at war. She’s on the couch sleeping. Right now, it feels like our whole existence is a big mess.
August 1st was a cruel day. That day Stacey received a call from her breast surgeon with the diagnosis, the cancer has returned – Stage 1. Aren’t we lucky to have caught it so early? Yes… So lucky. Just a few hours earlier we had received the news that our friend, Craig McConnell, had passed away after his 7-year battle with cancer. I was at home with our children and sat them down to tell them what had happened to Craig. To pray with them and for all of our friends who were grieving in that moment. To pray for Stacey who was also grieving. Stacey didn’t tell me of her diagnosis until she got home and my first thought was for our kids. Great – we just had a conversation about cancer and death, how am I going to handle this news?
I waited a few days. Stacey and I met with her breast surgeon to get our initial briefing on what lay ahead for Stacey and our family. Lumpectomy? no question. Chemo, radiation, and endocrine treatments all likely. We’re going to beat this thing. I sat the kids down and told them with calm, measured confidence they needed to know that mom’s breast cancer had come back and that it is nothing like Craig’s cancer, she isn’t going to die. My strategy seemed to work. The kids didn’t have time to think about the ramifications of a cancer diagnosis in light of our earlier discussion. Their response was a nonchalant “OK.” And then we had a good discussion about what it all meant. That mom would be seeing the doctor a lot. That she would be sick for a while and might lose all of her hair.
A little over a month ago I was sitting in the hospital waiting room separated by a few chairs with other men who were in that surreal purgatory… just waiting for our loved ones to transition into the recovery room. Stacey was having a lumpectomy, which would take her out for the next 10 days. We missed Craig’s memorial service.
This story started a little more than 6 years ago when Stacey was first diagnosed with breast cancer. It was a scary time, we had no idea what to expect. Stacey was in her mid 30’s. Our two children were just starting in elementary school. Stacey elected to have a double mastectomy and reconstruction. The doctors said the chances of reoccurrence were extremely small. Probability statistics are not very meaningful when it turns out YOU are the 1 in 200.
Now, I’m dealing with all of this again, but differently. I’m older, and feels like we’ve covered a lot of ground in the last 6 years. There’s a continuum of people with loving concern and support on one end and fear and required assurance on the other. Our network of friends and family scattered all along that continuum. What does Stacey need?
For two normally private people who have a hard time receiving from others – this is a difficult time. I know I need friends in my life, and I want to have stronger relationships and more intimate friends. But how do I balance setting good boundaries now and being open to receiving good care? The truth is we have a lot of needs (hard for me to even type out those words let alone publish them for the world to read or say them out loud). I’ve set up a site where people can contribute. If you’d like to learn more about ways you can support our family at this time, please click here: Contribute
Check in next week for an update on how we’re doing and my next blog installment “Smelly Socks”