Five years later.

[guest post by Michele]

In the middle of Andy’s cancer treatment and for an untold duration thereafter, I desperately wished for someone to just tell me when it would probably be behind us.   I yearned for that singular powerful instant in which to say cancer is over and we had moved on, that one definitive celebration that represented freedom.  Its promise kept me going some days.

Little did I know that the disruptive intensity of cancer’s arrival would never be matched in its departure.  Like grief, healing has its own convoluted timeline with its fits and spurts, its painful lulls and setbacks.   Andy’s recovery as a patient, mine as a caregiver, and ours as a family were rarely if ever in sync.  Routine and observable milestones seemed entirely irrelevant to the process.  In truth, nothing about healing or recovery bore remote resemblance to the chronological time that had once appeared so steady.  This was wildly unsatisfying.

Some of you know that this experience prompted me to forgo time entirely for a bit.  It seemed so unreliable.  I began to form plans only at the last minute and grudgingly at that.  If pressed to advance plan, I always couched it as “probably” and “possibly”.  Every “commitment” had an exit strategy, many of which were executed.  Plans that went as planned were truly a surprise to me when they occurred.  On a birthday, I announced that I would age in reverse for a bit and I believe that I actually did.

Our latest observable moment is Andy’s release from oncology patient status.  Is this it?  Is this our moment?  He transitions from the discomfort of monitoring to the, albeit milder, discomfort of freedom and release of the safety net.   Pre-scan anticipation, “What if there’s something?  How much has it changed?  What if it is overmonitoring?” will be replaced with the occasional, “What if it returns?  How will we know?”  This is the very essence of #lifewithcancer.

To be clear, we have no complaints.  Far from it.  Our lives are more healed than ever before.  I recently made a haircut appointment weeks in advance and then actually showed up for it, a milestone that Andy instantly recognized.  We are intensely aware of surviving, of the luxury of recovery, because we know too many for whom clear scans and release from oncology patient status may well be unattainable.  But milestones beg reflection, and this is a truth rarely told.  Turning points of healing can be subtle, ill-defined and sometimes only seen in retrospect.  Most of ours were.  They require an insightful eye and an open heart.  Observable metrics like time are overly simplistic and leave much to be desired.  Yet we celebrate them nonetheless.

To all the open hearts that supported our recovery, and to all who continue to celebrate milestones with us –  both time-bound and less concrete – we remain so very thankful.

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Michele’s first blog ever

When Andy started his blog, I immediately asked if I could write a guest blog, thinking it would be a great way to keep in touch and reach out to family and friends.   But as I soon found out, and as many of you are well aware, the responsibilities of primary caregiver to toddler, chemo patient and beloved dog left little time for much else.    So I am finally here, 5 months into the 6 month chemo adventure.   

I am really writing to say thank you for the outpouring of love and support from our friends and family.

Cancer can spark a feeling of helplessness – that feeling that nothing that seems to make it better or go away.  I know this feeling well, having watched Andy suffer the effects of chemo.  If only I could make him the perfect milkshake, maybe he would have a great day.  If only I could find him a tshirt so fantastic that he would feel energized and even maybe normal.   I began to realize that I couldn’t take any of it away for him.  

I share this because I know that our friends and family often ask what more they can do.   I know they want to do something more.  Something bigger.  Something better.  Something spectacular.  I know that deep down they would do anything to take this away for us.   

I never found the perfect tshirt for Andy.   And maybe some of you wished that you could find that spectacular special something too.   Perhaps the search continues.

In the meantime, I hope you know what a difference you have made for us over these difficult months.   

Your unwavering support in the forms of meals, emails, cards, calls, visits, care packages, to name a few, have helped us profoundly.  It is hard to imagine the power of cards and packages until you are the recipient.   You made generous contributions to our meal and housecleaning programs, knit special blankets, sent flowers and delicious cookies, emailed and texted us on chemo days, and offered to travel many miles and take time away from significant responsibilities to help us out.  Those nearby somehow found time to bring us homecooked meals, walk our dog, entertain our daughter, leave us exciting surprises on the porch, do airport runs and drive us other assorted places, and check in on us regularly.  

All told, your gifts continue to give us strength and courage when we need it the most.  They remind us that we are in your hearts and prayers, near and far.  We are humbled by this.  We hang on to it.  We put it in our pockets for a little extra something in the crummiest of moments.   In the best of moments, we look forward to celebrating with you when it is all over.   We can’t thank you enough.  

xoxo Michele