I’m Home. I’ve been here for 2 full days and all I’ve done is rest, cuddle with my husband and play with my kids. I haven’t gone anywhere, I haven’t worried about the pile of mail, I haven’t really unpacked, and I don’t plan on doing it today. Actually, I think we may go buy the Frozen DVD, maybe paint some fingernails, build legos, or just not do much of anything. My day to day focus is not what it was before I was diagnosed. For instance, Gunnar had a bad dream and found himself in my bed at 3:00 a.m. There was no walking back upstairs and tucking him into bed so that he could be a big boy. I now find things like that so unimportant. That’s not how my kids will be ‘trained’ to be big and independent. Among other things, what builds strong kids in my house are missing mom for six weeks at a time, believing that rubbing and kissing mom’s bald head brings luck, and understanding that mom is very breakable. That’s our focus.
I mentioned in one of my first blogs that I was certain in what led to my multiple myeloma diagnosis. Whether or not that still holds true, it’s no longer a focus. I spent the last 6 weeks in what I would have considered, once upon a time, to be unbearable pain and sickness, despair that nothing seemed to dissipate the pain and sickness, missing my family, and, at one point, seriously questioning whether or not I could get through the chemotherapy protocol that put me in the hospital for a week. I won’t lie and say that I never questioned “Why Me?” or said that this whole cancer thing is unfair. I did both of those things everyday. Everyday until I had a discussion with one of my nurses. That discussion changed everything for me.
The last six weeks in Arkansas, the first phase in my chemotherapy protocol, was called Induction 1. The clinical study protocol I’m on is known as Total Therapy 4. Induction 1 included a mixture of 8 different chemo drugs, given separately and in combination. That is so much poison being pumped into a body at once. You can imagine what that does to a person’s system (as I mentioned earlier, it put me in the hospital for a week). Everyday I would visit ‘Infusion 4’ to have blood levels of every kind checked and monitored. When numbers are low, I would be given what I needed to get them into a healthier range. For instance, I had problems quite often with potassium, so I had multiple infusions of potassium to increase my level. I also had a horrible time keeping in fluids. Nearly every day I’d be given one to three liters of fluid. Getting these substances into the body takes time, so I was in Infusion 4 ALL THE TIME. This allowed me to make some pretty awesome connections with other patients and nurses.
I would be lying if I said I loved my nurses all the same. There are more than a few that I adore! Those nurses are some of the only bright spots I see when I think of going back in a few weeks. During one of my infusion days, I was there quite late into the evening. I was waiting for my fluids to finish up, so mom and I were just chatting away with my nurse. She is one in which I immediately felt a connection. She’s young, about 30, intelligent, gorgeous, open, and someone I would have been a natural friend with had the circumstances been different. I think mom had asked her what made her want to be an oncology nurse, and her answer completely changed my perspective on this cancer.
Her exact words were, “I never wanted to be here in Infusion 4. I’ve sat in your chair.” She had worked at UAMS for several years, I think starting out in the emergency room. One day she had been climbing the stairs and found herself passed out from the exertion. She went to the doctor and, at 27 years old, was diagnosed with aplastic anemia, a cousin to multiple myeloma. She spent 7 months inpatient and underwent two transplants. I believe she mentioned that she was off work for 18 months. Lastly, she looked at me and said, “I did ask, ‘Why me?,’ but then it all came together, and I realized it was actually, ‘Why NOT me?'”
Being diagnosed with what the majority of the cancer community deems an ‘incurable’ cancer will rock your world. (I will be cured, and that is not being naive. The work being done by my doctor and the team at UAMS is changing the face of myeloma) You will go through denial, anger, sadness and all sorts of other emotions. You want to blame something or someone. The truth is, though, that cancer can happen to anyone. Since being diagnosed, I have heard of, or met, so many young men and women with young children at home going through the exact same thing that I am experiencing. How unfair, right?
So, why me? Sure, I try to be as healthy as I can be, but so does everyone else I know. I know I’m a good person, I try to do everything with a good heart. I’m a steadfast Christian, and I always try to fight the good fight. Recognizing that how you shape your life has absolutely nothing to do with getting cancer is the most liberating and healing gift. It takes the pressure of trying to figure out the “why” and makes it so unimportant. I’ll leave the “why” up to the researchers. And when they find that “why,” I’m willing to bet it comes down to something completely out of my control. Something that can happen to anyone, at anytime, with or without children or a spouse.
I am so grateful that the “Why” is no longer a focus. There are so many more important things like comforting my son after a nightmare, or playing legos until my back hurts from sitting on the floor, or just doing nothing and cuddling all day. I am confident and happy with those things, and the anger part of my journey is over. Seriously, why not me?
‘Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.’ Philippians 3:12